THE OLDEST CARPET IN THE WORLD – THE PAZYRYK RUG
In 1949, a Russian archeologist Sergei Rudenko made a groundbreaking discovery in a Scythian tomb in southern Siberia, in the context of the history of weaving. Searching through Siberia, precisely the part called Pazyryk Valley, he excavated a tomb of a Scythian Prince with all the treasures that had been buried within for over 2500 years. Dating back to 500 B.C.
The Pazyryk Carpet is 5’11” X 6’6″ (183 cm x 200 cm). It has a velvety woolen pile, finely knotted with an average of between 200 to 270 symmetrical knots to the square inch. The rug was constructed using the traditional Turkish knotting system, which strongly implies that the nomadic Turkish tribes who occupied central Asia two millennia ago, share an unbroken tradition of rug making with that of more modern traditions.
Among many historically important findings that offered a thought-provoking insight into the little known ancient nomadic tribes of Pazyryk, including cloth saddles, decorative or devotional figurines, tattooed mummies, cannabis seeds with an inhalation tent, and even a full-sized burial chariot, there was a rug. It had lasted all this time is frozen in ice which allowed it to remain almost untouched by the ravages of time. It is the oldest known pile rug which is additionally exceptionally well preserved and by its singularity continues to intrigue historians and weavers alike.
The Pazyryk rug is now housed at St. Petersburg Hermitage Museum. Their website provides the following description of the ancient wonder: “Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of four stylized lotus buds. This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by a border of twenty-four fallow deer. The widest border contains representations of workhorses and men.” Although the characterization of the design seems to be accurate, it does not mention the ambiguity concerning the actual origin of the carpet. The Pazyryk tribes were wandering hunters who domesticated horses and mastered the art of riding to perfection. However, their main trade was war. According to historical sources, the Pazyryk or, in other words, Scythian peoples were considered fearless, not excluding the women who were just as proficient in martial arts as men. It is highly unlikely that these warriors are the makers of the famed Pazyryk rug because of its sophistication, the intricacy of design, as well as the color scheme, indicate a highly developed cosmopolitan and most of all, settled civilization.
The Pazyryk Valley was located close to major trade routes that were travestied from China to Central Asia and back by the merchant caravans.
Here are specs from Hermitage Museum;
Created: Russia. Pazyryk Culture. 5th – 4th century BC
Found: Pazyryk Barrow No. 5 (excavations by S.I. Rudenko, 1949). Altai Territory, Pazyryk Boundary, the Valley of the River Bolshoy Ulagan
The world’s most ancient pile carpet was found in the largest of the Pazyryk burial mounds. Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of 4 stylized lotus buds. This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by another one of 24 fallow deer. The widest border contains 28 figures of men on horseback and dismounted. The once bright yellows, blues, and reds of the carpet are now faded, but must originally have provided a glowing range of colours. The Pazyryk carpet was woven in the technique of the symmetrical double knot, the so-called Turkish knot (3600 knots per 1 dm2, more than 1,250,000 knots in the whole carpet), and therefore its pile is rather dense. The exact origin of this unique carpet is unknown. There is a version of its Iranian provenance. But perhaps it was produced in Central Asia through which the contacts of ancient Altaians with Iran and the Near East took place. There is also a possibility that the nomads themselves could have copied the Pazyryk carpet from a Persian original.
Title: Pile Carpet
Epoch. Period: Early Iron Age
Date: Pazyryk Culture. 5th – 4th century BC
Place of finding: Altai Territory, Pazyryk Boundary, the Valley of the River Bolshoy Ulagan
Archaeological site: Pazyryk Barrow No. 5 (excavations by S.I. Rudenko, 1949)
Technique: knot technique
Dimensions: 183×200 cm
Inventory Number: 1687-93
The rug had been preserved in the permafrost since the 5th century BC. Soon after the rug had been placed in the burial mound of a Sythian chieftain, grave robbers raided the tomb. Fortunately the robbers ignored the rug, and in their pursuit actually helped to protect the rug from decay.
The rugs’ central field is a deep madder red colour and it has five borders. The primary, or widest, border contains horsemen. Each horse has an embroidered saddlecloth of which the design resembles the actual Pazaryk rug. The secondary inner border contains rows of deer.
The central field depicts repeating quatrefoils, which can be found in the stonework at the entrances to some Assyrian Palaces.
It is now kept in the Hermitage Museum of Leningrad.