Floral Persian carpets with entwining vines exemplify the classical Oriental rug for numerous people. From the 15th century onward, Turkish rugs there were a mounting number of collectors amongst the well-to-do merchant classes of Europe. Branded and evaluated according to where, how and by whom it was made, a Turkish rug, like all other Oriental rugs, is either of city, village or nomadic origin. Other creations for commercial consumption, such as intricate, flower-patterned silk rugs woven near Istanbul in Hereke and motivated by Persian and Ottoman court carpets, also fulfilled the Western taste for Turkish rugs during that time period and are still created today.
But most prized by today’s collectors are the rustic rugs woven for centuries by women in villages throughout Turkey. These constitute the majority of collectible Turkish carpets. Some 19th-century village rugs, however, were also made for the marketplace. Rugs remain an important source of family income in these agricultural communities.
Nomads, although dwindling in numbers, also continue to weave rugs, executed mostly in primary colors and reflecting the graphic motifs of their Central Asian-Turkish heritage. Compared to other types of Oriental rugs, Turkish village rugs are distinguished by their vivid and unusual color combinations and lively geometric designs.
The symbols on a Turkish carpet tell about what ancient people thought was important, what they feared, and what they dreamed. Many symbols on Anatolian carpets are based on myths still believed today.
The most common myth in Turkey is the Evil Eye. It is believed that some people have the power to cause harm or death with just a glance from their Evil Eye. Blue-eyed people are more likely to have an Evil Eye than others. One of the best ways to prevent harm is to reflect the glance back with a symbol of the Evil Eye itself. In weaving, a diamond divided into four is the most common symbol for the eye.
Another common symbol is Hayat Agaci, the tree of life. The tree represents hope for life after death. Every culture in the world has a different tree of life–like the cypress, date, palm, pomegranate, fig, olive, beech, and oak trees.
A young woman who weaves stars into her carpet is showing her happiness. Stars on carpets usually have an even number of points, because it is difficult to weave uneven numbers. A star on a carpet could also mean a hope for fertile fields or hope to have a baby. Archaeologists have discovered mother goddess statues in Anatolia that have a star to represent the womb.
Women in the Anatolian region of Turkey have used mythic symbols for thousands of years to express their dreams and fears. A long time ago, they knitted socks with different symbols to show their feelings for a loved one.
The oldest symbols were created 9 thousand years ago at Catalhoyuk, an ancient village in Anatolia. Archaeologists have discovered that, since that time, many other cultures moved in and out of the area and used the same symbols. The Anatolia region was like a rest stop for travelers from all over the world. But instead of staying in Anatolia’s gigantic stone fortresses (called kervansarays) for weeks, the groups of people stayed for hundreds of years. Eventually , they adopted some of the Anatolian culture and symbols.
There are many more symbols. Some of them tell about a girl’s dreams to get married, others about a woman’s hope for a successful hunt. Since Anatolia is such a dry area, waves are a common symbol that shows how much water is valued. If you know what the Anatolian symbols mean, you know the weaver’s dreams and her culture’s myths.
You are looking at a work of art. One soon discovers that Turkish rugs are more cultural symbols than pretty floor coverings, and they have been around as long as the Turks themselves.
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