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Plate Twelve
Tekke Chuval
Archaic period

This fragment is actually quite a bit larger than what is pictured here and unfortunately the larger image showing the entire fragment was accidentally lost in virtual space just before completion of the posting of this exhibition. There are several noteworthy features that deserve discussion and while this image does not allow them to be fully illustrated, it does present enough of the original to continue.

Archaic period Tekke weaving, like that of all other Turkmen groups is extremely rare, and this is the only example of a chuval to be yet published. Compared to the Tekke engsi, Plate Three, the wool quality, coloration and drawing of this chuval are demonstrably different. Both of these weavings were produced in the same general area of western Turkmenistan, the chuval in the Kopet Dag Mountain region and Plate Three from somewhat farther south in the vicinity of Merv. These differences were the result of disparate cultural and not so much geographic environments. The chuval was produced by a nomadic group living an archaic lifestyle in the foothills and mountain valleys of the Kopet Dag and the ensi within a settled village setting. The chuval has the surface patina, coloration and expressive drawing style that, it seems, were only produced by weavers during the archaic period. Perhaps a Tekke engsi with these characteristics will soon be located.

The complete fragment has three rows of six main göls and the same set of borders at the top. It is surprising to find this combination of borders on an archaic weaving as it is more commonly seen on later examples. However, a higher level of articulation has added, a minor border of tiny multi-colored crosses and a subtly more complex main border design (fig.40). It is very similar to a göl, called aina, found on many classic and later period weavings. Compare it with those on a small Tekke bag(fig.41), known to the Turkmen as mafrash. Also note the more common version of the same main border. Are the designs(fig.42) in the added side panels on this mafrash a vestige of the main gopaz border from the Tekke engsi?

Between each of this fragment’s main göls are unusual chemche minor göls. For not only are they extremely large, in fact they are as large as the major göls, but each horizontal row is quite different from the next. When the entire fragment is seen, these chemche create an extraordinary scene no other chuval or for that matter Turkmen weaving duplicates. This rather erratic drawing style is very unconventional and although it might seem uncharacteristic in an archaic period weaving, it is actually attractive and conveys a unique sense of movement and rhythm.

The grid of intersecting horizontal and vertical blue lines is a feature of almost all Tekke main carpets, but extremely rare on trappings. This raises an interesting question since this after all is a fragment missing an unknown amount of field on both sides as well as both side borders and all four edge finishes. Is this a chuval fragment or is it a fragment of a small rug? Since there are no other Tekke chuvals or small rugs known from the archaic period to compare it to, there is no possible answer to this corundum. But the fragment’s size and the presence of main and secondary borders usually associated with chuvals and not main carpets would make it appear that it was not a small rug.

Like many other questions raised by Turkmen weavings, the answers for now remain elusive and as this subject receives increased attention so too are more questions raised. Finding these answers is truly a fascinating pursuit as it combines history, geography, archaeology, economics, politics, linguistics and soon, state of the art scientific research. But in the end it stimulates a search for the most wonderful of all – man’s desire to explain the unexplainable through art.


Fig. 40 Major border Plate Twelve
Fig. 41 Major border of fig10
Fig.42 Detail fig. 10

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