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Armenian Rugs. Historical Perspective
November 23 , 2017 , 12:46
Armenian Rugs. Historical Perspective

Armenians are the earliest known weavers of oriental rugs. Ulrich Schurmann, a reknowned expert on oriental rugs, believes that the Pazyryk rug, the world's oldest known rug (5th cent. B.C.), can be attributed to the late Urartians, or early Armenians, based on the rug's structure, design, and motifs


Marco Polo and Herodotus are among the many observers and historians who recognized the beauty of Armenian rugs. They noted the rugs' vivid red color which was derived from a dye made from an insect called "ordan" (Arabic "kirmiz"), found in the Mount Ararat valley. The Armenian city of Artashat was famous for its "ordan" dye and was referred to as "the city of the color red" by the Arab historian Yaqut


It is also theorized that the word "carpet", which Europeans used to refer to oriental rugs, is derived from the Armenian word "kapert", meaning woven cloth. The Crusaders, many of whom passed through Armenia, most likely brought this term back to the West. Also, according to Arabic historical sources, the Middle Eastern word for rug, "khali" or "gali", is an abbreviation of "Kalikala", the Arabic name of the Armenian city Karnoy Kaghak. This city, strategically located on the route to the Black Sea port of Trabizond between Persia and Europe, was famous for its Armenian rugs which were prized by the Arabs.


Geographically located at the crossroads of many great empires, including the Persian, Ottoman, and Russian, Armenians lived scattered throughout the Caucasus and the Anatolian Plateau, as well as other parts of the Middle East, Europe, and the Far East. Although under foreign rule for most of their history, Armenians were the leading artists, architects, and merchants within these empires.


The merchants in Armenia, in particular, used this dispersed network of expatriated Armenians to their advantage as they acted as the middle-men for trade between the Mediterranean, Asia, and Europe. By the 14th century this trade network was firmly established between Northern and Southern Europe. Thus, many Armenian rugs made their way to Europe. This is evidenced by the appearance of Armenian rugs in many European paintings, the most notable of them being Hans Holbein's (1425-1524) portrait of George Gyze, a merchant who is depicted as sitting at a table covered with a popular Armenian Kuba rug