The condition of a weaving is not in itself much guide idle to age and can only he used as evidence in a supporting role. Very early rugs can sometimes be in astonishingly good condition, especial K if they have been in the West for a bug period, just as comparatively modern rugs arc bound in very poor condition both in the East and the West.
One effect of age on weavings of many types and origins is corrosion. Iron oxide was commonly used to achieve a dark brown color, but this has the effect of making the yarn brittle. Areas, which are piled with such wool, soon wear down to dive au unintentional hut sometimes quite pleasing relief effect. In general corrosion does not affect the value of a weaving unless it is very serious and detracts markedly from the pieces appearance. Again, because this effect can occur in quite a short space of time, it does not in itself furnish proof oh great age. It can also be artificially induced, as can changes iii palette, which can lie caused both by chemical washing as well as by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. This has happened to many rugs from the end 19th century onwards, due to Western demand for paler colors.
Dated Turkmen rugs
A few Turkmen weavings exist with inwoven dates, although they are quite rare and are all from the end of the 19th or early 20th centuries - i.e. no examples are known from the 'pre-synthetic period. Thus the amount of knowledge to he garnered in this is way is small, though not entirely insignificant. This is also the case wich the acquisition dates of certain examples in museums.
Inwoven dates are usually in the Islamic calendar, which begins with the flight of Muhammad to Medina in 622 A. 1). (the Hejira). Because the Islamic year is lunar, a formula is needed to convert an Islamic date into a Gregorian one: divide the Hejira date by 33.7, subtract the result from the Hejira date and then add 622. For an approximate equivalent, add 583 to the Hejira date (for Arabic numerals and conversion chart).
Great caution must he taken with inwoven dates, however. In some instances, they may not represent the year a rug was woven but some important festival or event which the weaver wished to commemorate. The date could also have been copied from an older rug - most weavers were illiterate and might have understood a date as being simply part of a design. Many rugs also hear entirely false dates or genuine (hates which have been 'doctored - it is, for instance. very easy to change an Arabic 3 into a 2 by removing three or four knots, thereby making the rug appear to be dated a century earlier than it us.
Unfortunately, European paintings, one of our most important sources of information about early carpets from many of the great weaving cultures, is of very little help with Turkmen weavings since the earliest representations of these do not appear until I the end of the 19th century.
The Structure of Turkmen rugs
The structure of weavings, how they are made and with what, is considered (ii far greater significance today than it was by an earlier generation of writers; many of the latter were aware that structure might be able to reveal much information hut were incapable of analyzing it themselves. Over the last three or four decades, many writers, researchers and collectors have studied the structures of large numbers of weavings and, basing their conclusions on this large body of material, have put forward many new and convincing theories as to origins and dates. Though there is a growing tendency to present analyses in a consistent manner understandable to everyone with some experience, a common terminology has yet to be agreed.
The foundations of pile weavings consist of warps and wefts. The warps are first attached to a warp beam; the Turkmen nomads usually used a horizontal loom, as opposed to a vertical one which is harder to erect. Warp materials can be wool, cotton or goat-hair and sometimes a mixture of wool and goat. Goat-hair was usually used for warps of more finely woven pieces as it can he very finely spun while retaining great strength. Machine-spun yarns began to appear in the second half of the 19th century, although were generally used only for commercial weavings, not for those items made for domestic consumption. Like their counterparts in most tribal societies, Turkmen women were expert spinners of animal fibres and machine-spun yarns were expensive.
The materials used for Turkmen weavings are spun in an anti-clockwise direction, usually designated iii technical analyses as 'Z'; when two or more Z-spun yarns are plied, the plying is clockwise, designated as 'S'. The combination of Z spinning and S-plying is characteristic of almost all Oriental weavings with the exception of the wool found in Egyptian-made rugs, which is spun and plied in the opposite directions. In the standard abbreviations now used in technical analyses, the material is given first, followed by the direction of the spinning, the number of yarns which have been plied, followed by the direction of the plying. Thus 'WZ2S' means that the material is wool, the direction of the spinning is anti-clockwise, i.e. ~Z, and that two (2) strands have been plied in a clockwise direction (i.e. '5'); these same abbreviations are also used when describing the wefts, the structure of which always appears after that of the warps. Measurements are usually given with the length (i.e. the warp) first and the width (i.e. the weft) second; sonic writers and publications (i.e. the specialist magazine Hali) give the width first but they are in a minority. In both cases measurements are normally made along and across the central axes. Most measurements do not include flat-woven ends and fringes.
The pile of a rug consists of what, in strictly technical terms, is a form of discontinuous wafting attached to the warps; it seems rather pedantic to express it as such, however, and 'knotting', although a misnomer, has now been almost universally accepted as a term of convenience. The forms of knotting most usually encountered are described as asymmetric (Abbreviated to As. also 'Persian' or 'Sehna'), which can be 'open' to the left or right and symmetric (abbreviated to Sv. also 'Turkish' or 'Ghiordes'). The easiest way oh' determining what kind of knot has been used is to bend the rug genthy back along the well so that one can look down at the base of a knot. In many instances, alternate warps lie at different depths, a phenomenon called warp depression.
The materials and the ways in which they are used arc of inestimable value in determining the origins of weavings. Also of considerable significance is the fineness of weaving, which iii structure analyses is normally measured by the number of knots to the square " and/or square decimeter (i.e. 10cm. vertical by 10cm. horizontal). Other important aspects of structure arc the type and number of colors, the way a weaving feels (the 'handle') and the way it is finished both at the sides (selvedges) amid ends; in many instances, of course, the condition of the piece will be such that some of these features will no longer he present or will have been replaced (for selvedge weave).