Armenian rugs society
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The Caucasian Armenian Rug
November 23 , 2017 , 12:49
The Caucasian Armenian Rug

Geographically, the Caucasus are located between the Black and Caspian seas, the gateway between Europe and Asia. Inhabitants of the Caucasus are primarily Armenians and Azerbaijani (Azeri) Turks with a smaller number of Georgians and Kurds. Other ethnic groups include the Abkhaz, Circassians, Chechens, Lesghians, Mingrelians, Svans, Laz, and Talish.


Although there is a wealth of historical information available about the Caucasus, the rugs from this region are commonly misrepresented. Many Caucasian rugs are often labeled "Cabistan" or "Kazak". However, these names do not correspond to any known geographical location or groups of people. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of the "Kazak", it can be traced to the area in the south Caucasus, between Tiflis and Erevan. According to official Russian census figures for the late 19th century, it is most likely that Armenians and Azeris who were living side-by-side in this region wove the "Kazak" rugs.


Caucasian rugs can not be classified based on patterns as is common with Persian and Turkish rugs. Because rugs were commonly traded throughout the region, rug patterns were widely dispersed and would inevitably be copied. In order to identify and classify Caucasian rugs their construction must be examined. This includes the variance in the color of the warp, the arrangements of the strands, the dyed color of the weft, the way the ends are finished, the way the sides are bound, and the quality of the wool (i.e. coarseness vs. lustrous).


A typical Armenian rug contains a division of fields, medallions, and motifs that employ geometric shapes. A large proportion of the inscribed Armenian rugs contain cross shapes, human figures, and geometric bird and animal figures not commonly found in non-Armenian rugs. These animal figures and crosses are believed to have religious significance since they are consistent with motifs found in Armenian manuscripts and relief sculptures on Armenian churches and monasteries [1]. Also, the use of red cochineal dye, which has been documented as being produced by Armenians, is common among the inscribed Karabagh rugs [1].


H. M. Raphealian has studied the meanings of symbols in oriental rugs, including Armenian rugs, for over 50 years. Interestingly, he believes that many of the motifs used in Armenian rugs and Armenian art in general, were a result of Armenia's contact with Asia, particularly India and China, as early as the 4th century A.D. [2]. Some of these motifs include figs, Asoka trees, pine cones, turtles, serpents, and birds.


Provincial village women were the primary weavers of rugs, although there are Armenian inscriptions referring to male weavers. All of the rugs were woven with wool, which was locally obtainable. Cotton was only used as weft threads and for edging. According to Arthur T. Gregorian, "Armenian rugs are woven firmly with the nap clipped very low, making the rugs supple and soft. A great preference is shown for delicate shades of soft blue, touches of green, coral, old gold, and tans. All the patterns are outlined in either natural brown or wool dyed to this shade"[3]. The weavers knew that over time this brown color would fade faster than the other colors, thus it was used for outlining motifs. This color was obtained from the use of an iron pyrite in dyeing the wool.