Like any other important cultural artifact, Oriental rugs have a rich and interesting history. In order to be categorized as an Oriental rug, the rug must be made of hand-woven, natural fiber and originate from certain geographical areas, such as the Near East, Middle East, Far East, and the Balkans. Although many people are aware of Oriental rugs’ cultural significance to Middle Eastern countries, it is fascinating to note that Oriental rugs were also central fixtures in the cultures of the ancient Mayans and the early Chinese.
The origins of the Oriental rug actually lie in religion. In some orthodox sects of Islam, it is against the religion to create art that depicts humans or animals. Rug weavers of the Middle East got creative and began designing striking, complex abstract patterns instead. Oriental rugs were also widely used in places of worship. It was customary in the Eastern world to remove shoes before entering a sacred place, but floors thousands of years ago were usually nothing more than dirt. There was a need for comfortable and beautiful floor coverings, and Oriental rugs fit that role perfectly. Today, Oriental rugs are less used for religious reasons and are popular, elegant pieces of home décor.
Although Oriental rugs are all unified through the common manner in which they are made, this process can differ from rug to rug. True Oriental rugs are either flat-woven or hand-knotted. These two methods serve as the foundation for all Oriental rugs, and from these two processes variations in weaving styles, designs, and geographic similarities have sprung up. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of an Oriental rug, ask about the manner in which the rug was made. If the rug was either flat-woven or hand-knotted, odds are that the rug is an authentic Oriental.
Rug making itself can be considered an intricate and fine craft that has amazingly remained the same since its inception in ancient times. The weaving process makes each rug unique and unlike any other. Hand-made rugs are the most valuable and exquisite, and often reflect the characteristics of the artisan who made it. The color and thickness of yarn and the knotting style determine the appearance of the rug, which creates a truly one-of-a-kind design. Knots are hand-tied horizontally across the warp threads row by row to create the design. The knots themselves may align differently on each rug or the wool yarns may be of a slightly different hue to create a truly distinctive piece of artwork. Variations in the color, knots, and composition of Oriental rugs ensure that no two rugs are exactly the same, and the end result is truly an original piece of art.
Photos courtesy of Dover Rug & Home