The Rich History and Beauty of Anatolian Rugs
The term “Anatolian rugs” is used to describe rugs from an area of Asia minor and surrounding regions. Some of the oldest carpets in the world can be dated to this region. The intense colors and abstract designs, combined with traditional tribal symbols, makes them a favorite around the globe. Carpet weaving is a tradition that dates back to the earliest tribal cultures in the region. Let’s explore this fascinating and beautiful group of rugs a bit further.
Where is Anatolia?
Anatolia refers to a region in Western Asia that is known as the Anatolian peninsula or Anatolian plateau. It is the western-most point of the Asian continent. Now, it is considered a part of Turkey, and is sometimes called “Asian Turkey.” It is the place where Europe and Asia meet.
It is a diverse region in terms of terrain and climate. It is surrounded by the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and the Aegean Sea. It ranges from a high central plateau with coastal plains to mountainous regions. It is a climate of extremes with hot summers and brutally cold winters. It is in these lands that ancient tribes and civilizations developed a culture with a diverse and rich material heritage.
Anatolia – A Crossroads of Civilization
Since prehistory, Anatolia has been a crossroads of civilization. It has been a region of frequent migration, travel, and conquest. Some of the oldest evidence of human existence can be found in caves of Anatolia. It is a region that is rich in natural resources and is in a strategic location to access both Europe and Asia. It is the most convenient route between the east and west.
The region known as Anatolia has been home to the Old Assyrian Empire, Hittites, Ionian Greeks, Mycenaean Greeks, and Phrygian empires. It is a land of ancient myth and legend. It has been occupied by the Romans, early Christians, Byzantines, and Jewish Populations. Anatolia has been a land of war and dispute. Each of these cultures left its mark on what would later develop into modern Turkish culture.
Anatolia would also see conquests by the Persians, Arabs, the Crusades, and Mongols. It would be home to the rise and fall of great empires, including the Seljuks and the Great Ottoman Empire. For the most part, the central area remained more stable, with the major conflicts occurring on the outskirts of the territory. These cultures intermixed and had an influence on the traditional crafts of the area.
Tribal Cultures and Anatolian Rugs
The climate of Anatolia is much harsher than one would expect. Many areas are steep slopes and unable to sustain agriculture. This led to the development of nomadic groups, some of which continue to live in the traditional lifestyle of their ancestors today. Most of the nomadic tribes are located in eastern Anatolia and migrate between the plains and mountains. It is estimated that at least 50,000 inhabitants still live in small, tribal villages. It is here that the story of Anatolian rugs begins.
The tribes that migrate throughout Anatolia include people of various ancestries and mixed cultures. Their isolation from the rest of the world allowed each of them to develop their own unique arts and culture. While there have been major occupations, such as the Ottoman Empire and Islamic cultures, many of these tribes remained isolated from these influences. This cultural isolation means that many of the rug patterns that we see in antique carpets from the area may be similar to those created by the ancient cultures that inhabited the area.
Designs and Patterns of Anatolian Rugs
Until the Trans-Anatolian Railway was completed in 1871, the world had not seen these beautiful works of art. When the railway was completed, it allowed the rest of the world to see them for the first time. The world fell in love with them, and they soon provided an additional source of income for the nomadic tribes.
As a group, it is often difficult to distinguish the work of one tribe from another, but they can easily be recognized as a regional group by their colors, texture, weaving techniques, and motifs. It is a region that is a melting pot of traditions, political alliances, religions, and languages. Within the designs, you can often see influences from the various cultures that have occupied the region. Sometimes, you will see hints of Byzantine, Islamic, Persian, or Mongolian art within the designs.
Although there are a few exceptions, many Anatolian rugs use the symmetrical, or Ghiordes, knot. Most are made from all wool that is sourced from local sheep. You will sometimes see an unusual color in the rug because of a locally available plant dye. On a rare occasion, you can find an exotic fiber such as goat, bear, camel, or ox. As a group, the designs, colors, materials, and techniques used to create these masterpieces are as varied as the people themselves.
Anatolian tribal carpets are like a time capsule that gives us a glimpse into human history. That is one of the reasons why people love them so much today. They have a primitive quality and a character that lets you know that human hands created it. Each one is the culmination of hundreds, if not thousands of years of traditions passed down through song and stories.
Anatolian rugs are some of the most unique and beautiful rugs in the world. We encourage you to take a look around our collection and see if you find the one that would make the perfect addition to your Boho chic, eclectic, or modern tribal-inspired space.
Browse a variety of antique Anatolian rugs and textiles:
This rug blog about the history of antique Anatolian rugs was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.
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