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Arabatchi Chuval
Classic Period

Chuvals, large storage bags or trappings, were it seems always made in pairs and were used by nomadic Turkmen groups to store and transport domestic goods and material possessions. They were also made by settled groups and similarly used for storage but it would seem other options were available for them and the chuval was as much or even more so a decorative accessory as it was a utilitarian one.

The range of colors, materials and the quirky design elements used to create this particular chuval are equal to any other known example. It has at least nine colors, the use of goat hair and sheep wool in addition to cotton and silk highlights in the cut pile. The main göls are also highly unusual as is the layout of three rows of four and the large cross-like ornaments (fig.27) displayed in the centers of each of them. In addition, the square proportions as well as the co-joining and unusual drawing of the minor göls(fig.28) are also features not encountered in other chuval of this period.

The Turkmen referred to the major and minor patterns as göl, a Turkish word for lake that had an almost mystical connotation for the Turkmen as these designs are thought to have once contained the mythical bird insignia that were specific to each Turkmen group. During the end of the 19th century another term, gul, derived from the Persian word for flower became interchangeable with göl. But as it has no spiritual connotation and basically refers only to the vague similarity these designs and flowers have, it should not be used in this context, especially when referring to archaic and classic period weavings.

Almost all Turkmen bags and main carpets, as well some other trappings, use the göl-layout with major, minor and occasionally even tertiary ones. Prior to the colonial weaving period, the materials the Turkmen used for these cut-pile weavings were always of the highest quality possible. This combination of extraordinary dyes and wool is responsible for the splendid visual and tactile response one gets from handling genuine Turkmen weavings.

But examples made before the 19th century by nomadic weaving groups have developed an especially rich coloration and unique deep patina that separate them from all others. Gradual drying and oxygenation has crystallized the oil in the wool and imparted this special effect except where sun, heat, chlorine bleaching or other types of physical damage have affected the surface. This patina and the super-saturated coloration these materials were able to achieve created a definably different class of weaving from those made in the settled village setting of most later Turkmen weaving groups.

This chuval, as well as all the other examples in this exhibition, aptly demonstrate this difference. They were made from wool and hair that came from the coats of animals that contained far greater concentrations of oil and lanolin than those of the animals raised by lowland settled village dwellers. In addition, the dye and mordant recipes in combination with the quality of mountain spring water used in these processes imparted the resulting sheen and brilliant coloration they possess. The Museum believes these special qualities have measurable characteristics and applying newly developed scientific techniques, that are now in use in other fields, will further refine the existing classifications and enable more highly defined ones to be developed.


Fig.27 Detail major göl Plate Five
Fig.28 Detail minor göl Plate Five

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