From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term Armenian carpet designates, but is not limited to, tufted rugs or knotted carpets woven in Armenia or by Armenians from pre-Christian times to the present. It also includes a number of flat woven textiles. The term covers a large variety of types and sub-varieties. Due to their intrinsic fragility, almost nothing survives—neither carpets nor fragments—from antiquity until the late medieval period.
Traditionally, since ancient times the carpets were used in Armenia to cover floors, decorate interior walls, sofas, chairs, beds and tables. Up to present the carpets often serve as entrance veils, decoration for church altars and vestry. Starting to develop in Armenia as a part of everyday life, carpet weaving was a must in every Armenian family, with the Carpet making and rug making being almost women’s occupation. Armenian carpets are unique “texts” composed of the ornaments where sacred symbols reflect the beliefs and religious notions of the ancient ancestors of the Armenians that reached us from the depth of centuries. The Armenian carpet and rug weavers preserved strictly the traditions. The imitation and presentation of one and the same ornament-ideogram in the unlimited number of the variations of styles and colors contain the basis for the creation of any new Armenian carpet. In this relation, the characteristic trait of Armenian carpets is the triumph of the variability of ornaments that is increased by the wide gamut of natural colors and tints.
Etymology of word “Carpet” in the Armenian and other languages
The Armenian words for carpet are “karpet” (Armenian: կարպետ) or “gorg” (Armenian: գորգ).Though both words in Armenian are synonymous, word “karpet” is mostly used for non-pile rugs and “gorg” is for a pile carpet.
Two of the most frequently used terms to designate woven woolen floor coverings emanate directly from the Armenian experience: carpet and kali/khali. The term “kapert” (Armenian: կապերտ), formed of root “kap” (Armenian: կապ) that means “knot”, later to become “karpet” (Armenian: կարպետ) in colloquial Armenian, is used in the 5th-century Armenian translation of the Bible (Matthew 9:16 and Mark 2:21). It is assumed that the word “сarpet” entered into French (French: carpette) and English (English: carpet) in the 13th century (through Medieval Latin carpita, meaning “thick woolen cloth”) as a consequence of the trade in rugs through the port cities of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. Francesco Balducci Pegolotti, a Florentine merchant stationed in Cyprus, reported in his La pratica della mercatura that from 1274 to 1330, carpets (kaperts) were imported from the Armenian cities of Ayas and Sis to Florence.
Armenian word “gorg” (Armenian: գորգ) is first mentioned in written sources in the 13th century. This word (“gorg”) is in the inscription that was cut out in the stone wall of Kaptavan Church in Artsakh (Karabagh) and is dated by 1242—1243 AD. Grigor Kapantsyan, professor of Armenian Studies, considered that Armenian “gorg” (Armenian: գորգ) is a derivative of Hittite-Armenian vocabulary, where it existed in the forms of “koork” and “koorkas”. Edgar H. Sturtevant, an expert in Hittite studies, explains the etymology of word “koork”/”koorkas” as “horse cloth”.
As for the Persian “qali”, which entered into Turkish as “qali” or as “khali” in Anatolia Ottoman Turkish and Armenian, it derives from the city of Theodosiopolis-Karin-Erzerum, known to the Arabs as Qali-qala from the Armenian “Karnoy k‘aghak”, the “city of Karin”. The name “Erzerum” itself, as is well known, is of Armenian origin from the usage Artzen ar-Rum. This latter term came into being after the destruction of the important Armenian commercial center of Artzen, 15 kilometers east of Theodosiopolos-Karin, by the Seljuks in 1041 after which the inhabitants fled to Karin, then in Rum, that is in Byzantine territory, renaming it Artzen in Rum or Arzerum/Erzerum/Erzurum.
The art of the Armenian carpet and rug weaving has its roots in ancient times. However, due to the fragile nature of carpets very few examples have survived. Only one specimen has been discovered from the ancient (pre-Christian) period and relatively few specimens are in existence from the early medieval period which can be found in private collections as well as various museums throughout the world.
“The complex history of Armenian weaving and needlework was acted out in the Near East, a vast, ancient, and ethnically diverse region. Few are the people who, like the Armenians, can boast of a continuous and consistent record of fine textile production from the 1st millennium BC to the present. Armenians today are blessed by the diversity and richness of a textile heritage passed on by thirty centuries of diligent practice; yet they are burdened by the pressure to keep alive a tradition nearly destroyed in the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and subverted by a technology that condemns handmade fabrics to museums and lets machines produce perfect, but lifeless cloth”.