The History of Oriental Carpets
Given that hand knotted pile knotted carpets are for the best made from wool (or to the lesser silk) and intended to be subject to daily use on the floor they are invariability at some point or another going to simply oxidise and wear away. Although Persian knotted carpets are indeed very hard wearing and can sometimes provide hundreds of years of good use the very fact that they are made from organic materials means they don’t last for ever, and as such finding old examples to assist us to accurately understand their true origins presents a few difficulties. Whilst a few fragments remain of Anatolian Carpets from the Seljuq Period (1243–1302) when and how exactly the Persians started weaving pile carpets remains a mystery.
What we do have though is the Pazyryk carpet (pictured above). To date this is certainly the oldest remaining example of a pile knotted carpet in the world. It was excavated in 1949 from the grave of a Scythian chief in the Pazyryk Valley of the Altai Mountains range, Siberia. The carpet fortuitously became preserved as a result of an earlier botched attempt to raid the tomb that lead to water entering the tomb – and later embedding the carpet in a block of ice.
Recent radiocarbon testing indicates the Pazyryk carpet was actually woven in the 5th century BC. The quality of workmanship involved also indicates a long history of evolution and experience in carpet weaving. Interestingly the very fact that the carpet was actually found in central Asia opposed to Persia (modern day Iran) thousands of miles away therefore puts question the commonly held concept that carpet weaving originated in Persia. The techniques used to weave the Pazyryk carpet are still in use today.