For over 2 and a half millennia the Persian rug has been a unique expression of artistic endeavor and skilled weaving. The secrets behind the production of Persian rugs was often closely guarded by families who has their own unique ways to improve the colors, weave and appearance of the carpets – often some of the patterns that were used in the rugs were unique to each of those families who specialized in the production of these masterpieces.
Today Persian area rugs are a feature of many people’s homes, taking pride of place as an expression of that unique artistic mastery that had its origins around 2,500 years ago. The history of the Persian rug is one that is filled with trade and the need of many of the noble class to surround themselves with the trappings of wealth, power and prestige.
The oldest Persian rug that has so far been discovered is the so called ‘Pazyryk carpet’. This was discovered in the Pazyryk valley, in the Altai Mountains in Siberia. This carpet, which has been tentatively dated to around 500 BCE is amazingly beautiful and shows the enormous technical skill that was already at that point the hallmark of the carpets that had their origins in Persia. The value of these carpets was already established. This is apparent due to the fact that the carpet was found in the tombs of Scythian chiefs who were interred with these objects of great value.
The first documented mention of the carpets was by the Chinese in 628 CE, when the Emperor Heraclius brought carpets back to his home country after he had conquered Ctesiphon, which was the Sassanian capital. Later the Arabs also conquered this same city and returned with some of the most famous carpets ever recorded.
The area of what was then known as Persia fell under the control of the Arab Caliphates and this was to remain the case until 1038, when a Turkish tribe conquered the area. This was to be one of the most important times for the ongoing development of the skills that make the modern Persian carpet such a wonder of artistic expression.
The Seljuk women (named after the leader of the tribe that had conquered the area) were tremendously skilled in the tying of knots used in carpeting – and to this day the so called ‘Turkish Knot’ is used in the manufacture of high quality Persian Rugs.
In 1220 the Mongols conquered Persia. Their brutal rule was soon softened as they were exposed to Persian culture. It was said that the palace of Tabriz seat of Ghazan Khan was covered in carpets. Subsequent rulers continued to admire and use the carpets.
By the 16th century the fame of Persian carpets had spread across the known world. During that epochs Safavid Dynasty, Shah Abbas encouraged further refinement of the art of making the Persian carpet. The area where these carpets were manufactured was to change hands many times over the coming centuries. Afghans, Turks and Russians all sought to influence the future of Persia. However, by the 19th century trade with Europe had ensured that the fame of the Persian carpet had spread far and wide.
Today Persian area rugs have pride of place in many homes across the globe – and the sheer beauty and luxury, as well as a deep and colorful history will ensure that these rugs remain popular for years to come.