>>The History of Rugs
The History of Rugs2017-05-23T16:27:05-04:00


Look at–look into–any fine handmade Oriental rug. There is a depth of beauty here that rewards the eye in ways that nothing else can duplicate. Little wonder, down the centuries, everyone from heads of state to the world’s taste setters, the wealthy and famous, as well as those of more modest means have chosen handmade rugs as the showpieces of their palaces and homes.

The term “Oriental rug” refers to any hand-knotted rug created in the ancient rug-weaving centers of the Near East and Far East: from the Balkans through Turkey, North Africa, the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and Nepal. While the exact origin of hand-woven oriental rugs is uncertain, ancient writings mention a variety of weavings and locations. The earliest surviving piece–known as the Pazyryk carpet–dates back to 400-500 BC. (Discovered in a burial site excavated in southern Siberia between 1947-49, it is now part of the Hermitage Museum Collection in Leningrad.) Certain scholars, in fact, believe that Oriental rugs probably existed even before the building of the Egyptian Pyramids and the fabled palaces of Babylon.


However little is known of the earliest handmade rugs, their first weavers were most likely the Nomadic tribespeople of Central Asia some three thousand years ago. These shepherds had ample wool with which to weave, as well as the incentive of bitterly cold winters. More than any other single fabric, rugs contributed to the comfort of these nomads. Rugs served as tent flaps to batten down the opening of their homes, keeping out the wind, rain and snow. Rugs covered their benches and floors, providing warmth and softness for sitting and sleeping. Toss a rug over a large object and you suddenly have a table. Use a rug to carry things over your shoulder–or as a saddlebag over a horse–and you don’t need a suitcase or trunk. Interestingly, the notion of actually placing a rug on the floor and walking on it is a relatively recent one–originating in Europe about 300 years ago.

How did handmade rugs, created in the eastern part of the world, arrive in the West? Most likely they were first imported from Turkey to Italy by merchants and traders such as Marco Polo. Italian paintings dating back to the 1400s show Oriental rugs in a variety of scenes. In England, King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey were among the first to procure these amazing rugs from Italy. Portraits of the famous monarch feature the rugs prominently displayed.


Oriental rugs made today are hand-woven in substantially the same manner as that of the earliest surviving example: the Pazyryk carpet discovered in Siberia. This, of course, is part of their enormous aesthetic appeal. Many rugs use design motifs that trace their origin back hundreds of years, yet remain as timely, and as beautiful, as ever. In certain of the rug-producing countries, each weaving district has its own distinctive patterns associated with that district. Just as in centuries past, this helps identify a rug and tell us from where it came. This is indeed a true link to the past–one that contemporary rug owners possess and can pass down to their own children, generation after generation.

Today, the Oriental rug is every bit as beautiful–as rich and enchanting–as it has always been, although a number of dramatic changes have occurred in the industry itself. With the introduction of the Tufted Technique, today’s weavers can now adapt their designs and colors to reflect contemporary tastes and trends. A look through Bashian’s collections will immediately show how varied and diverse–from highly traditional to surprisingly contemporary–today’s rugs can be.