This small knotted or cut-pile carpet fragment(5), like several others in his collection, Lamm refers to as Seljuq-type, relating them to a small number of much larger fragments and several complete rugs. The majority of these were found in the Ala al-din mosque in Konya but there are several others, also known as Seljuq, from another medieval Mosque, the one at Beysehir(6). Both of these imposing architectural master-works are located in ancient Anatolia, which was an area very similar in boundaries to modern-day Turkey.
Since their initial publication in 1907, the Seljuq carpets, which today number less than a dozen, have presented quite a mystery to carpet scholars and debate continues about who actually made them and where they were made. One thing is sure they date from an early period and have few existent contemporaries. Lamm’s contention some of the fragments he acquired in Cairo are Seljuq, like Plate One, may in fact eventually prove more correct than the carpets from the Ala al-din or Beysehir Mosques, which are believed to be Seljuq today. It is interesting no-one has questioned which of these two quite dissimilar type of weaving might really be Seljuq, as they both can not be. Their materials and structures imply quite different production areas and intentions of usage.
Surprisingly, Lamm’s structural notations in the catalog for this piece
list a left-handed or Z twist warp, while in reality it shows a right-handed
or S twist, as do the Ala al-din, Beysehir Mosque Seljuq carpets and all other
Turkish and Turkmen weavings. This mistake occurs several times in the catalog
notations but actually it may just be the result of confusion in terminology.
Also the reconstructions Lamm published appear to be somewhat inaccurate but
unlike structure, which is positively determinable, reconstruction isn’t
and I will leave this to any reader of Lamm’s catalog to decide whether
it is or not.
This fragment as well as the some others labeled “of the Seljuq-type”(7) by Lamm bears far more relationship with the subsequent weaving traditions to the east rather than to those of central Anatolia, the location of the two Mosques where they were discovered some years before Lamm found his scraps in Cairo.
One of the center points of this re-examination presents the theory some of Lamm’s pieces are the real Seljuk rugs and were made prior to their arrival in Anatolia.
This idea is highly probable as the Seljuqs were originally from Turkmenistan, which is east and north of Konya and was a place where a longstanding tradition of cut-pile carpet making appears to have been followed. In the 13/14th century, when it is theorized the Ala al-din and Beysehir Mosque carpets were made as original accessories for these buildings and Konya was the Seljuq capital, it is highly probable these carpets were made by as yet unknown weavers following a design iconography the Seljuqs brought with them from Central Asia.
Another part of the new interpretation presented here concerns the question: What did the Seljuq weaving iconography look like? This re-examination forwards the idea some of those Lamm fragments, like Plates 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 and not the Ala al-din or Beysehir Mosque rugs display it and moreover the Lamm fragments were their archetypes.
Not much is known about the Seljuqs but it is certain they migrated to Anatolia from western Turkmenistan(8) - their society and culture unrelated to anything indigenous to Anatolia. Lamm’s theorizing some of his fragments, like this one, were Seljuq, did not include any explanation of the physical differences they demonstrate compared to the Mosque rugs and one wonders if he even considered it.
Besides having a capital in Konya, the Seljuqs also controlled areas to the east, like Sivas and Kayseri , conquered during their journey to central Anatolia. And while it is not as certain, parts farther east and north are also thought to have remained within their suzerainty. These locations, in most eastern parts of Anatolia and the southern Caucasus (Armenia and Caspian shores), rather than Konya were far more likely to have been the places where this Plate and the other Lamm fragments of the Seljuq-type were woven.
In any event this fragment’s design is purely Turkmen in concept and character. The green diamond medallions and their interior design of 4 smaller diamonds resemble some rare and much later western Turkmen pile carpet weavings (fig.8). But while Lamm’s reconstruction theorizes the darker red hook-designs were part of these medallions, they might just as well have been separate secondary medallions, just like the standard later Turkmen layout.
Did the Seljuq’s weave carpets before they left Turkmenistan and did they
continue to do so once they conquered central Anatolia? And when they disappeared
from Konya, where did they go and did they take a weaving tradition with them?
These questions remain unanswered but one fact is sure - the iconographies and
icons found on the Lamm fragments of the Seljuq-type and the Ala al-din/Beysehir
carpets more resemble the subsequent weaving traditions of Turkmenistan than
Anatolia. This is not just coincidence and when the results of forensic analysis
are analyzed this and other interesting questions these fragment raise may finally
5. Lamm, Carl Johan “Carpet Fragments – The
Marby rug and some fragments of carpets found in Egypt” Nationalmuseum,
Uddevalla 1985; Plate Three.
6. These pieces have been published many times but perhaps the easiest place to see quality reproductions of most of them is in “Seven Hundred Years of Oriental Carpets, Kurt Erdmann; Univ. Calif. Press,1970 in the chapter“The Konya Carpets; pg 41.
7. Lamm; op. cit; pg 15.
Erdmann; op. cit. Pg 44