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The history of Persian Carpet-a culmination of artistic magnificence
- dates back to 2,500 years ago. The Iranians were among the pioneer
carpet weavers of the ancient civilizations, having achieved a
superlative degree of perfection through centuries of creativity and
ingenuity. The skill of carpet weaving has been handed down by fathers
to their sons, who built upon those skills and in turn handed them down
to their offspring as a closely guarded family secret. To trace the
history of Persian carpet is to follow a path of cultural growth of one
of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known.
From being simple articles of need, floor and entrance coverings to
protect the nomadic tribesmen from the cold and damp, the increasing
beauty of the carpets found them new owners - kings and noblemen, who
looked upon them as signs of wealth, prestige and distinction.
Carpet, 5th century B.C.
Russian archaeologists Rudenko and Griaznov in 1949 discovered the
oldest known "knotted" carpet in the Pazyryk valley, about 5000 feet up
on the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Dating back to the fifth century B.C.
The Pazyryk carpet is of rare beauty and woven with great technical
skill. It was found preserved in the frozen tombs of Scythian chiefs,
which were 2400 to 2500 years old, it is now kept in the Hermitage
Museum of Leningrad. Another rug found in the same area, dates back to
the first century B.C.
Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he was
struck by its splendour, and it was probably he who introduced the art
of carpet making into Persia. However, historical records show that
magnificent carpets adorned the court of Cyrus the Great, who founded
the Persian Empire over 2,500 years ago. It is also said that the tomb
of Cyrus, who was buried at Pasargadae near Persepolis, was covered with
precious carpets. Even before his time, it is very likely that Persian
nomads knew about the use of Knotted carpets. Their herds of sheep and
goats provided them with high quality and durable wool for this purpose.
The first documented evidence on the existence of carpets came from
Chinese texts dating back to the
Sassanid Dynasty (AD 224 - 641). In AD 628, the
Emperor Heraclius brought back a variety of carpets from the conquest of
Ctesiphon, the Sassanian capital. The Arabs also conquered Ctesiphon in
637, and among the spoils brought back were said to be many carpets, one
of which was the famous garden carpet, the "Spring time of Khosro". This
carpet has passed into history as the most precious of all time. Made
during the reign of Khosro I (531 - 579) the carpet was 90 Feet square.
The Arab historians' description is as follows: "The border was a
magnificent flower bed of blue, red, white, yellow and green stones; in
the background the colour of the earth was imitated with gold; clear
stones like crystals gave the illusion of water; the plants were in silk
and the fruits were formed by colour stones" However, the Arabs cut this
magnificent carpet into many pieces, which were then sold separately.
After the period of domination by the Arab Caliphates, a Turkish
tribe, named after their founder, Seljok conquered Persia. Their
domination (1038 - 1194) was of great importance in the history of
Persian carpets. The Seljuk women were skilful carpet makers using
Turkish knots. In the provinces of Azerbaijan and Hamadan where Seljuk
influence was strongest and longest lasting, the Turkish knot is used to
In the Turkish (or Ghiordes) knot the yarn is taken twice around two
adjacent warp threads and the ends are drawn out between these two
In the Persian (or Sinneh) Knot, the wool thread forms a single turn
about the warp thread. One end comes out over this thread and the other
over the next warp thread.
The Mongol conquest and control of Persia (1220 - 1449) was initially
brutal. However, they soon came under the influence of the Persians. The
palace of Tabriz, belonging to the Ilkhan leader, Ghazan Khan (1295 -
1304) had paved floors covered with precious carpets. The Monghol ruler
Shah Rokh (1409 - 1446) contributed to the reconstruction of much that
was destroyed by the Mongols and encouraged all the artistic activities
of the region. However, the carpets in this period were decorated with
simple motifs, which were mainly geometric in style.
The Persian carpet reached its zenith during the reign of the
Safavid Dynasty in the 16th century. Indeed the first
concrete proofs of this craft date back to this period. Approximately
1500 examples are preserved in various museums and in private
collections worldwide. During the reign of Shah Abbas (1587 - 1629),
commerce and crafts prospered in Persia. Shah Abbas encouraged contacts
and trade with Europe and transformed his new capital
Esfahan, into one of the most glorious cities of
Persia. He also created a court workshop for carpets where skilled
designers and craftsmen set to work to create splendid specimens. Most
of these carpets were made of silk, with gold and silver threads adding
even more embellishment. Two of the best know carpets of the Safavid
period; dated 1539 come from the mosque of Ardebil. Many experts believe
that these carpets represent the culmination of achievement in carpet
design. The larger of the two carpets in now kept in London's
Albert Museum while the other is displayed at the
Los Angeles County
The court period of the Persian carpet ended with the Afghan invasion in
1722. The Afghans destroyed Esfahan, yet their domination lasted for
only a short period and in 1736, a young Chieftain from Khorasan, Nader
Khan became the Shah of Persia. Through the whole course of his reign,
all the country's forces were utilised in campaigns against the Afghans,
the Turks, and the Russians. During this period, and for several
turbulent years after his death in 1747, no carpets of any great value
were made, and solely nomads, and craftsmen in small villages continued
the tradition of this craft.
In the last quarter of the 19th Century and during the reign of the
Qajar rulers trade and craftsmanship regained their
importance. Carpet making flourished once more with Tabriz merchants
exporting carpets to Europe through Istanbul. At the end of the 19th
Century some European and American companies even set up businesses in
Persia and organised craft production destined for western markets.
Today, Carpet weaving is by far the most widespread handicraft in Iran.
Persian carpets are renowned for their richness of colour, variety of
spectacular artistic patterns and quality of design. In palaces, famous
buildings, mansions and museums the world over, a Persian carpet is
amongst the most treasured possession.
Major Weaving Centers:
Arak, Ardebil, Bijar, Hamadan,
Mashhad, Nain, Qom, Sanandaj,
Abadeh, Afshar, Ghotloo, Ahar, Amol, AnjelasAradkan, Baft, Bakhtiar,
Balouch, Bam, Bandar Turkman, Behbahan, Bidgol, Borcheloo, Broujerd,
Chenar, Darab, Darjezin, Farahan, Firouzabad, Garavan, Ghotlog, Golkhar,
Golpayegan, Gonbad, Haris, Hosseinabad, Jourqan, Kaboudar, Ahang,
Kashmar, Koliai Khamseh, Khoie, Khosrowabad, Lorestan, Mahallat, Makou,
Malayer, Mahabad, Moshkabad, Moghan, Mianeh, Najafabad, Natanz, Nahavand,
Neiriz, Neishabour, Qashqaie, Qazvin, qouchan, Rafsanjan, Ravar, Roudbar,
Saman, Sarmilaq, Sarouk, Semnan, Senneh, Sirjan, Shahre Kord, Shahreza,
Shahr Babak, Shahroud, Shahsavan, Tabas, Torbat Heidarieh, Tousirkan,
Tajabad, Tafresh, Turkaman Sahra, Varamin, Vis, Yasouj, Zarand.
View photos about top iranian carpets ! (
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