The earliest sing of carpet weaving dates back to Bronze Age. This sign is a weaving knife, found in an ancient grave in north of Iran. In addition, some tools used in carpet weaving, which belongs to 2500-2800 B.C, were found in Shahr-e Sukhteh.
However the oldest carpets are: Pazyryk carpet, which is probably the oldest surviving pile carpet in the world. It measures 183×200 cm and has a knot density of approximately 360,000 knots per square meter. The Pazyryk carpet was probably manufactured in Persia around 400 BC and now is being kept at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The Story of Persian carpet
The first documented signs of existence of carpets in Iran are seen in Chinese texts and date back to Sassanid Dynasty. Ctesiphon, the capital of Sassanid Empire, was the center of lot of events in this era. Coquetting the Ctesiphon, Heraclius brought back many carpets to Byzantine realm.
After Muslims conquest Persia (637-651 A.D), Iranian carpet weaver forced to change the designs and patterns of carpets due to Islamic teachings, leading to new era in Persian carpet. The patterns in the first Hejri Century are mostly based on floral and geometric patterns.
This procedure continued until the Abbasid caliphate (750 – 1517 A.D) took power. The desire toward more luxurious life and goods among Abbasid caliphs revived the taste for more luxurious and decorative carpet designs. During his travel to Khorasan Province, Ibn Battuta, the Arab explorer of 14th century, talked about the magnificence and exquisite of carpets at the Shrine of Imam Reza, located in city of Mashhad.
But the apex of carpet weaving in Iran goes back to Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736 A.D). Economic prosperity and political stability, as well as commence of trading with European countries in this era, expanded the workshops and carpet weaving in Iran. During the rule of Shah Ismail , the founder of Safavid dynasty, many carpet workshops were established, especially in his capital city of Tabriz, with the purpose of organizing carpet weaving activities. The most famous carpet was woven during Shah Tahmasp rule, the Ardabil Carpet, which is considered as one of the best classical Iranian school of carpet creation. This carpet was first placed in mosque of Ardabil, but were sold to a British carpet broker in 1890. It is now placed in Victoria and Albert Museum.
The capital of Iran was moved from Tabriz to Isfahan during the rule of Shah Abbas, so Isfahan became the center of Persian carpet. Shah Abbas expanded carpet workshops and tried to change the carpet weaving from a rural and tribal handicraft to a more organized industry. The trading on Persian carpets and rugs expanded during Safavid Empire and many international companies started working in Iran.
The Afsharid Dynasty
The decline and fall of Safavid Dynasty created a gap in carpet industry for 7 years. Nader Shah proclaimed himself “the King of Persia” in 1736 and moved the capital from Isfahan to Mashhad; therefore Mashhad became the center of carpet industry and the new era began for Persian carpet. Designs and characteristics of carpet changed during Afsharid rule; warm colors and robust structure are the main characteristics of carpets in this time which distinct them from carpets woven in other eras. Today many carpets are woven based on Afshari design in different parts of Iran.
The Qajar Dynasty
No remarkable change happened in characteristics of carpet during Qajar era; the most significant development of this period is the commercialization of Persian carpet. Many countries opened their embassies in Iran and economic exchange started. Foreign companies came to Iran to invest in carpet industry in order to respond to the need of their countries. In addition, Dyeing techniques of materials were improved and new designs were offered according to the taste of new customers.
During the last decade, many governmental and private organizations has established, supporting carpet weaver and improving designs, techniques and materials in carpet and rug weaving. The most important centers of Persian carpet weaving are Tabriz, Isfahan and Mashhad, which all are the previous capital cities of Iran.
Exploring the world of antique Persian rugs reveals hidden histories and ancient traditions passed down for thousands of years and transported across cultures. The long story of Persian carpet doesn’t end here; every knot in carpet has its own story. These stories make a one unique and magical story; the story of Persian carpet.