Asia Minor, having a close relationship with Europe, whether at the era of the Roman Empire, or Crusades or the Bizantine Empire, used to be considered as the cradle of carpet-weaving.
At that time, when Pazirik was not discovered yet, it was assumed that carpet-weaving was developed in civilizations like Egypt. With the startling discovery of Professor Rodenko, leading to the introduction of Pazirik, found in Siberian mountains, to the world, carpet-weaving started to move its origin from the Nile River, Tigris and Euphrates to Central Asia in general and Iran in particular.
The fostering and development of the Iranian carpet-weaving art owes much to the efforts of the Safavid's shahs.
The very first signs of carpet-weaving in Iran can be found in the Bronze Age, and from graves in Turkmenistan and northern Iran, where a Qashqai man in Kamfirouz, Fars Province, Iran found some tools used to weave carpets. These tools are now preserved in the National Museum of Iran.
In a unique archaeological excavation in 1949, the exceptional Pazirik carpet was discovered among the ices of Pazirik Valley, in Altai Mountains in Siberia. The carpet was found in the grave of a Scythian prince. Radiocarbon testing indicated that the Pazirik carpet was woven in the 5th century BC. Professor Rodenko, a famous Russian archeologist, found a hand-woven knotted rug, when exploring and digging the frozen graves of Altai mountains. This revolutionized the history of carpet-weaving. Many different tools of hunting and cloth-weaving were found in the Pazirik valley, used as a grave yard at that time. Among the discoveries was a rather square-shaped rug (189 * 200 cms). There are around 3600 knots in one square meter of this rug. The rug is fully made of wool. The warps are a bit tightened and the woofs are loose. The type of knots are Turkish and colors have changed in the course of the time. The colors now are light pink and light green. It must have originally had brighter colors. Laboratory findings show the existence of nil used to give it blue and navy blue colors. There are also kermes acid and
Carminic acid mixed, showing that Cacusse (an insect) has been found to give it a red color. The body of the rug comprises of 24 squares, in each of which there is one eight-faceted star. In the margin, there are animal-like creatures like winged-lions technically known as "griffin". In the second margin, there are 24 antelopes with wide horns, called "Iranian yellow antelope" by French archeologist Grishman, also known as Mesopotamia. In the third margin, there are 62 stars like those of the body of the rug. In the fourth margin, there are 28 horses, some of them with a rider on their backs, and some others with riders standing beside them. In the last margin there are the lions called griffin. The rug is called "Pazirik" because of the place it was discovered. On discovering the rug, Rodenko immediately claimed that because the figures were related to the Achaemenian Dynasty, the rug was associating Persepolis. The way of tying the horses' tails in the form of braids reminds one of the horses on the walls of Persepolis.
The advanced weaving technique used in the Pazirik carpet indicates a long history of evolution and experience in this art. Pazirik carpet is considered the oldest carpet in the world.
However, it is believed that the carpet from Pazirik is not likely a nomadic product, but a product of the Achaemenid period.
Historical records show that the Achaemenian court of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade was decked with magnificent carpets. This was over 2,500 years ago, while Persia was still in a weak alliance with Alexander the Great, who would later betray her. Alexander II of Macedonia is said to have been dazzled by the carpets in the tomb area of Cyrus the Great at Pasargade.
The second old rug found in Iran is a woven rug discovered in the archeological explorations done in Qumis (now known as Semnan). It is a rug with curly woven parts going back to the Sassanid Dynasty. It is preserved in the Metropolitan Meuseum of Art, New York City.
According to the researches done, there were 30 rugs in Takhte Tavoos Palace, and four different types of rugs, used for different seasons of the year.
By the sixth century, Persian carpets of wool or silk were renowned in court circles throughout the region. The most important BIG RUG ART from the Sassanid Dynasty is called Baharistan or Nasser Khosrow, which was ordered by Anun Shiravan for a Sassanid palace in Tisfoon. After the Arab conquest, this carpet was cut apart by Arab invaders and divided to different leaders as loot. The carpet was 1000 m2. It was 450 feet (140 m) long and 90 feet (27 m) wide and
depicted a formal garden. The Bahârestân (spring) carpet of Naser Khosrow was made for the main audience hall of the Sassanid imperial Palace at Ctesiphon in the Sassanid province of Khvârvarân (in present-day Iraq). With the occupation of the Sassanid capital, Tuspawn, in the 7th century CE, the Baharestan carpet was taken by the Arabs, cut into small fragments and divided among the victorious soldiers as booty.
The carpet was gold-woven in some parts and had motifs and figures from garden and paradise.
The body of this carpet was divided to smaller parts and there were smaller gardens with beautiful rivers flowing, and paths designed for people to walk on them. There were different precious gems and diamonds woven on trees in this BIG RUG. It was also known as "garden carpet". According to historians, the famous Tāqdis throne was covered with 30 special carpets representing 30 days of a month and four other carpets representing the four seasons of a year.
The Islamic Period
In the 8th century A.D. Azarbaijan Province was among the largest centers of BIG RUG , carpet and Gillim weaving in Iran. The Province of Tabarestan, besides paying taxes, sent 600 carpets to the courts of caliphs in Baghdad every year. At that time, the main items exported from that region were carpets, and small carpets for saying prayers (also known as prayer mats). Furthermore, the carpets of Khorassan, Sistan and Bukhara, because of their prominent designs and motifs, were in high demand among purchasers.
During the reigns of the Seljuq and Ilkhanate dynasties, carpet weaving was still a booming business, so much so that a mosque built by Ghazan Khan in Tabriz, northwestern Iran, was covered with superb Persian carpets. Sheep were specially bred to produce fine wool for weaving carpets. Carpet designs depicted by miniature paintings belonging to the Timurid era lend proof to the development of this industry at that time. There is also another miniature painting of that time available which depicts the process of carpet weaving.During that era dyeing centers were set up next to carpet weaving looms. The industry began to thrive until the attack on Iran by the Mongol army.
The Art of carpet weaving during the Safavid period(1499-1722)
During the reign of the Safavid dynasty in Iran, the art of calligraphy, gilding, tiling, painting, miniatures, architecture and carpet weaving approached their highest previous level .In this period, the Iranian artist created very interesting designs that since have been imitated in many carpet weaving countries.
The Safavid kings, such as Shah Tahmasb (1524-1587) and Shah Abbas the Great(1587-16290), patronized these master weavers. They setup many weaving workshops in Kashan , Esfahan, Tabriz, Ghazvin, and Joshaghan and other suitable areas of Iran.
Shah Tahmasib carpet
Another famous carpet is Ardabil Carpet which was woven at the time Shah Tahmasib, for the shrine of one of his ancestors. It is now preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It should be noted that the pinnacle of carpet weaving art in Iran was developed at the Safavid Dynasty in Tabriz, a north-western major city in Iran. This most famous of Persian carpets has been the subject of endless copies ranging in size from small carpets to full scale carpets. There is an 'Ardabil' at 10 Downing Street and even Hitler had an 'Ardabil' in his office in Berlin.
The carpets are woven in 1539-40 according to the dated inscriptions. The foundation is of silk and the pile of wool with a knot density of 300-350 knots per square inch (465-542 thousand knots per square meters). The size of the carpets are 34½ feet by 17½ feet (10.5 meters × 5.3 meters).
There is much variety among classical Persian carpets of the 16th and 17th century. There are numerous sub-regions that contribute distinctive designs to Persian carpets of this period such as Tabriz and Ravar, Kerman. Common motifs include scrolling vine networks, arabesques, palmettes, cloud bands, medallions, and overlapping geometric compartments rather than animals and humans. Figural designs are particularly popular in the Iranian market and are not nearly as common in carpets exported to the west.
Disregard of large carpets in history, the honor of production of three large carpets belongs to Iran, Khorasan and Neishabour historic cities.
Particulars of these three:
1- 5700 meter carpet, 132m long and 42-48 m wide, with thousand millions of knots located at Sheykh Zayed mosque in Abo Zabi, UAE, is the largest handmade carpet woven by Neishabour carpet weavers. In this carpet woven in three carpet-weaving workshops equipped with largest looms of the world, 38 tones of the highest quality Sirjan and New Zealand wool is used and 1200 carpet weavers have worked on it. It was inspired by genuine carpet designs and Islamic conspicuous decoration. The job was up to Iran Carpet Co.
2- Sultan Ghabous is the second largest carpet ordered by Sultan Ghabous, king of Omman, woven by Iran Carpet Co. with 4343 m2 dimensions, about 35 knots per cm2, covers an area over 4347.
Central part of this carpet is tailored to the interior of Sheykh Lotfollah mosque. The weaving of this carpet began since 1996 and ended up after three years. 4347 m2 surface area of the carpet is created by 1.7 milliard knots. Iran Carpet Co. employed 600 workers including 500 weavers to weave the carpet for three years. Its weight is about 22 tones and is now the adornment of the main site of one of the biggest mosques in the world in Masghat, Omman Capital.
3- The third largest carpet being woven in Neishabour with the surface area of 2500 m2 is ordered by Mohammad Al Yamin mosque. The weaving of this carpet done by 200 weavers in two workshops will last for the next two years. The design is flower medallion, a combination of Isfahan- Tabriz carpet designing. This carpet has 7 central medallions and 7 small corners taken from Iranian traditional custom (Haftsin).
The distinction of this carpet with the two abovementioned carpets is high density (40 counts of row), more silk used and other technical issues in addition to execution by private sector.
Maryam Taheri was the managing director of coloring the third largest carpet of the world in "GEREH carpet co".
Although carpet production is now mostly mechanized, traditional hand woven carpets are still widely found all around the world, and usually have higher prices than their machine woven counterparts due to them being an artistic presentation. Iran exported $517 million worth of hand woven carpets in 2002. Iran's carpet exports amounted to US$635 million in 2005, according to the figures from the state-owned Iran Carpet Company. Most are top-notch hand-woven products. Nearly five million workers are engaged in the Iranian carpet industry, making it one of the biggest enterprises in the country.
In recent times Iranian carpets have come under fierce competition from other countries producing fakes of the original Iranian designs as well as genuine cheaper substitutes. Most of the problems facing this traditional art is due to absence of patenting and branding the products as well as reduced quality of raw materials in the local market and the consistent loss of original design patterns. The absence of modern R&D, is causing rapid decline in the size as well as market value of this art.To give one example, the "Carpet of Wonder" in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, it has big rug art in the big Mosque in the word .
The first of big rug
This masque located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. As the country’s grand mosque, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. It is the largest mosque in the UAE and numbers during Eid can be more than forty thousand people. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) offices are located in the east minarets. SZGMC manages the day to day operations, as a place of worship and Friday gathering and also a center of learning and discovery through its educational cultural activities and visitor programs. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has many special and unique elements: The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the big rug made by Iran's Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist . Maryam Taheri as one of the designers of this project has worked in the big rug.
This carpet measures 5,627 m2 (60,570 sq ft), and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from12 ton cotton and 35 ton wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet and it took approximately two years to complete. This big rug art was woven by 1200 woven worker, 30 worker , 20 technician, resulting in 3million man hours of work.
Maryam Taheri was one of the designer of Iran Carpet Company, has been a colleague in the design stain in the first great carpet.At this time she is responsible for the Big Rug Art company Design Management.
The second of big rug
In 1992 Sultan Qaboos directed that his country of Oman should have a Grand Mosque. The Mosque is built from 300,000 tones Indian sandstone. The prayer hall is square (external dimensions 74.4 x 74.4 metres) with a central dome rising to a height of fifty metres above the floor. The dome and the main minaret (90 metres) and four flanking minarets (45.5 metres) are the mosque’s chief visual features. The prayer hall can hold over 6,500 worshippers, while the women’s prayer hall can accommodate 750 worshipers. The outer paved ground can hold 8,000 worshipers and there is additional space available in the interior courtyard and the passageways, making a total capacity of up to 20,000 worshipers. Fortunately this nice masque covered by the unique big rug of IRAN.
A major feature of the design of the interior is the prayer carpet which covers the floor of the prayer hall. It contains, 1,700,000 knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce, and brings together the classical Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan design traditions. 28 colors in varying shades were used, the majority obtained from traditional vegetable dyes. It is the second big rug in the world. This hand-woven carpet was produced by Iran Carpet Company (ICC).
This big rug woven in about 4,343 square meters. Its construction required four years of labor by 600 workers, resulting in 12 million man hours of work. Maryam Taheri as one of the designers of this project and this time she is responsible for the Big Rug Art company Design Management.