Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Elusive Ersari Turkmen carpets of Bukhara

For anybody who has ever browsed the many beautiful, old, and often tattered rugs in the musty cupola rug shops of Bukhara, you will have many times been told that the rugs you are looking at are Ersari Turkmen rugs. The large Beshir rugs that at least used to be sold all over Bukhara are one sub-category of the Ersari rugs. Others have very different features. I had seen so many such rugs over the years in Bukhara that I started just refering to all large Turkmen rugs that were obviously not a standard tekke design or a standard yomut design Ersari. One example is this large rug I bought in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan a couple of years ago.

It looks like many I had seen previously in Bukhara, and I assume it once was housed there (but maybe not). Its patterns look to be a mixture of different Turkmen designs, and it has the year 1903 woven into it in Roman numerals. On Turkotek, somebody told me it may be Armenian, but I think that is less likely having come from Central Asia and not from the Caucasus region.

I often think that rugs like this were made on order for wealthy Sarts (i.e. people living in the oases of what is now Uzbekistan). Thus, the colors and patterns may have less to do with the weavers' ethnic/tribal identity and more to do with the tastes of the purchaser. But, who was weaving carpets for order in the Bukhara area at the turn of the century? The quality looks Turkmen, but who knows? Were they Ersari Turkmen? Were they not Turkmen at all?


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