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PLATE THIRTEEN
Size: 25 x 19.5 cm


Were it not for a complete carpet with the same major design(fig.44), this
Fig. 44
fragment would be unintelligible. The similarities both in design and use of color demonstrate how closely related they are and any thoughts Plate Thirteen(21) or one of its contemporaries was this carpet’s prototype may not be unreasonable. The unique use of the design they share, which will be referred to as the Goddess icon, convincingly supports their association but more importantly, it demonstrates the longevity and importance this design maintained.

Fig. 45
One thing is sure Plate Thirteen is hundreds of years earlier, even though figure 44 is dated circa 1500 AD. Its fragmented condition does not reveal much but the border, a simple ball or pearl motif, is indicative of late Bronze Age eastern Mediterranean artworks. As it is unknown in any other early pile weavings, its presence here adds additional weight to this dating attribution. Of even greater antiquity is the design they share. The detail of the carpet shows it in its
Fig. 46
complete form(fig.45) and, while the fragment’s is incomplete, there should be little doubt it originally was the same (fig.46). This icon has roots that stretch back to a Neolithic archetype, discovered at the an archaeological site known as Catal Huyuk. Located in the vicinity of Konya in central Anatolia, one of the treasures this rich site has provided was a plaster wall-relief(fig.47)
Fig. 47
with this icon of the Goddess. Found on the wall of one of the many shrine buildings, this particular shrine from level VII dates to circa 6500 BC. Holding up what appears to be an early textile made with a technique similar to modern macramé, this sculpture defines how the Goddess icon looked in its most archetypal form.

It is important to note the remains of actual textiles were also discovered during the excavations there. These were made with several different types of materials and different structural techniques but none with knotted-pile, soumak or kelim were found. The Catal Huyuk fragments, most in what has been described as a tabby weave, are some of the oldest recorded examples of true weaving known and, like the wall relief, date from the mid-7th millennium BC.

Goddess effigy representations were made in many different styles and the earliest, but surprisingly not the most simple, date from the Late Palaeolithic period, circa 30,000 BC. Most of these were found in remote cave settings in France and Spain but they continued to be produced in the same easily recognized form with ever expanding geographic distribution until the Late Bronze Age, circa 1500 BC. While there is considerable disagreement about their meaning or purpose and many scholars have presented conflicting opinions, the idea an omnipotent female being, or Goddess, played an important role in incipient religious belief and consciousness has been accepted in many quarters.

A number of different types of these effigies have been found at numerous archaeological sites located across a broad geographic distribution from Europe through to the Caspian Sea. Regardless of their function or meaning these figurines were important, as was the female component they carried, for not until well into the Bronze Age do male effigies became as prevalent and then eventually outnumber them.

Again, whether or not the Goddess was worshiped or the relief from Catal Huyuk actually shows a textile held aloft, this icon presents an undeniable link to the designs on these two carpets and leads to the question: Was the Neolithic source of this design known to these and other weavers and how did this design retain such viability over a 7000 year time period?

It appears credit for this amazing longevity should be assigned to the proscribed and restrained nature of the iconographies traditional weaving cultures of the Near East maintained. But this fact still begs the question: Did these weavers and their particular weaving traditions realize this design’s connection to the ancient Goddess icon? This question is impossible to positively answer but after reading the analysis below, it should be easy to imagine this icon’s meaning remained attached to it at least until the mid-17th century.

Figure 44 is an extremely important and unique carpet for a number of reasons but the use of only one design and no others is one of the main ones. This factor implies this icon’s inviolable importance, which was reinforced by the weaver not including any other motif. Perhaps another interesting question about the Lamm fragment is the same: Whether or not it, too, displayed only the Goddess icon?

Perhaps another related though somewhat later knotted-pile carpet fragment can help answer this question(fig.48)
Fig. 48
On the surface it appears completely different and far removed from Plate Thirteen, figure 44 and the plaster relief of the Goddess from Catal Huyuk. However, hidden in the reciprocal drawing of are three unmistakable links to them, which will be shown to also endorse the Goddess icon as sacrosanct. They imbue this carpet, just like Plate Thirteen and figure 45, with a unique importance.

The first is the appearance of the Goddess icon as a reciprocal image between each of the large squares or tiles into which the field has been divided(fig.49) .
Fig. 49
The second, also concealed, becomes visible by likewise changing the figure/ground relationship. When this is done two latent but unmistakable female figures appear above and below each of the Goddess icons(fig.50) .
Fig. 50
Their upraised arms and flared skirts are both familiar attributes, as they appear in a number of actual Goddess effigies.

The earliest of these originate during the late Neolithic period and a baked clay statuette from the site of Strelice in central Europe is one such example(fig.51)from the site of Strelice in
Fig. 52
It dates from circa 4,900BC. Another figurine from the Peloponnese dating circa 1,300 BC demonstrates the
Fig. 51
viability and longevity of these idols and, more significantly, the wide geographic distribution as well as the numerous different cultures that recognized them(fig.52).

The flared skirt unlike the upraised arms is not a feature of Neolithic period Goddess effigy representation nor was it as widespread geographically. Figure 53, a Minoan fired clay statuette circa 2500, shows one of the earliest of the type. Figure 54 is also Minoan but it is faience and circa 1600 BC. Another later fired clay statue, circa 500 BC, from central Greece presents how the last examples of this type of idol appeared(fig.55).

Fig. 53

Fig. 54
The presence of these distinctive features makes it pretty certain the weavers knew about this icon’s earlier Goddess associations. However, since they are hidden in the design, some might question this interpretation. There is one additional clue and this one is not hidden but clear and present
(fig.56). This little but extremely significant design seals the question and almost conclusively indicates the weaver of this knotted-pile carpet knew well what she was weaving.

During the late Palaeolithic period, circa 30,000-9,000 BC and throughout the Neolithic, 9,000-3,500 BC numerous
Fig. 55
female effigy figurines depict the Goddess with exaggerated and huge buttocks and thighs and figure 56's stylistic rendering has, no doubt, been derived from this convention. Figure 57 , the famous relief known as the Venus of Laussel displays this style that is typical of these Palaeolithic Goddess representations made in Europe.
Fig. 56

Figure 58 from Sardinia shows the subsequent Neolithic style and remarkably, this small alabaster figurine is so similar to figure 56, it seems the weaver could have been holding it as she was working.

 
Fig. 58
Fig. 57
The inclusion of this icon(fig.56) along with the other two reciprocal one should make even the most sanguine of observers acknowledge the connections these weaving share. The conservative traditions Near Eastern weaving cultures espoused were, without a doubt, responsible for the preservation of many archaic designs. And in a few rare instances, like this one, ample proof exists to validate this shared weaving culture
allowed weavers from different time periods to experience an almost unbelievably close connection with these designs as well as their meanings.





Footnotes:


21. This knotted-pile carpet fragment is illustrated as number 36 in the "Carpet Fragments" catalog

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