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55 York Street
Morningside, QLD, 4170
Australia

Antique handmade, long piled nomad rugs are rare and unique. Primitive Rug reveals the stories of the nomadic people who wandered the deserts and mountains of Central Asia and beyond, leaving behind these woven works of art. In our store you will find an exclusive selection of old, nomad made rugs. 

These primitive hand woven rugs are from the Amu Darya in the north of Afghanistan, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, the Afghan Pamirs, eastern Turkey, Iran, Spain, eastern Europe, and the mountainous regions of central Afghanistan.

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Shaggy Long Pile Tribal Nomad Rugs

Filtering by Tag: Postak

Choga and Chuba a Central Asian Primitive Pieced-Skin Tradition

Robert Cobcroft

A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, the terminology associated with Central Asian Pieced-Skin Rugs or mats made of animal pelts, skins or hides.

In Bokhara Uzbekistan a "furred robe" was called a Choga, as noted in the 1903 glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases. At the same time in Afghanistan the word Posteen would have been used to describe a "furred robe". While in Tibet the word Chuba described a similar if not more cumbersome garment.

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Primitive Skin Cloaks Afghanistan 1868 Posteen and Horse Rustlers

Robert Cobcroft

Primitive Skin Cloaks from the Stone Age - Posteen and Horse Rustlers  

B. Simpson photographed Colonel Waterfield and his men in Kurum Valley near "Peiwar Valley" Afghanistan in 1878. A Ghilzai Pashtun, wearing a Posteen was recorded standing to the left of the group. Patterned cloth has been used on the outside of the Posteen with the sheepskin lining showing.

 

When the images of the "Kakur" and "Afghan Horse Dealers" were posted on this blog there were a few questions asked.

"Maybe they're horse rustlers?" Milton Cater

"Our friends in the second image came directly from the “come as you are” party. I somehow trust them more, although they do look like they might be pickpockets, they aren’t pretending otherwise." Monika Neuland Kimrey

Searching high and low I discovered the original notes which accompanied these images published in "The People of India" between 1865 and 1875. The photographers were H.C.B Tanner (Henry Charles Baskerville) and Captian William Robert Houghton. The government of India had commissioned the work and the eight volume set of albums is noted as "being one of the first major ethnographic studies produced by the camera."

Notes accompanying the image "A Kakur Afghan" describe the cloak as "Afghan winter costume, a posteen, or cloth cloak, lined with sheeps' wool, forming a most comfortable wrapper." Posteen is consistent with other similar words used to describe sheep skin bedding rugs like "postak".

Afghan Posteen Sheepskin Winter Coat

Readers of this blog instantly detected the true character of the horse dealers. The following description was given to these dogged traders in "The People of India".  "The independence of character which seems to belong to these persons is, perhaps, not a very sound principle or feeling. The love of money would lead them to sacrifice honour or honesty on most occasions where unlawful gains were obtained with impunity."

Posteen wearing Afghan Horse Dealers

 

 

The link between pieced skin rugs, Postak, Pashmani and Posteen cloaks indicates that the practice of using animal hides including sheep skin was common in Afghanistan.  From primitive beginnings the wearing of animal skins continued in Central Asian culture throughout the ages, being refined into a patterned and lined cloak, warm and comfortable in the winter, donned by aristocrats and horse rustlers alike. A true Afghan winter "costume".

IMAGES:

Col Waterfield in Uniform and with Sword; And Group of Men in Costume with Sabers and Rifles Outside Tent OCT 1878 DOE Asia: Afghanistan: NM 40922 04420300, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, Simpson B. Bourne and Shepherd 1878. Afghanistan Kurum Valley/Peiwar Valley (Near)

Images contained within the collection: The People of India, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  “A Kakur” Local number: PoI6.322  “Afghan Horse Dealers” Local number: PoI6.332 H.C.B Tanner (Henry Charles Baskerville) and Captian William Robert Houghton

 

 

 

 

Primitive Skins from the Stone Age Part 4

Thierry Girard

A few years ago a group of fur rugs appeared in the collectors market.

Kirghiz primitive skin rug

Probably sourced in Afghanistan, they raised a lot of questions as they were not woven but consisted of various fur pieces sewn together.1 Moreover some parts were dyed in the way Uzbeks and Arabs from Afghanistan dye their polychromatic julkhyrs and some other trappings.  Another curious and unusual feature were the presence of threads sewn all along the back of the rug and a horn motif was even visible in the corners of some rugs.

Their precise and definitive origin has never been clearly identified but it is highly probable they were used by Kirghiz populations inhabiting the Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan. The widespread use of fur among the Kirghiz population and the presence of the little horns seems to indicate this.

They are difficult to date but the presence of synthetic colours among the embroidered threads prove they can not be older than the last quarter of the 19th century.  Synthetic dyes were already widespread among Kirghiz weavers in the 19th century. Some Kirghiz rugs collected in the Wakhan corridor by Russian expeditions in the 1880’s were already dyed with the poor fugitive red dye for which Kirghiz rugs and trapping are famous.

The Kirghiz were already well known a few centuries ago in international fur trading.2 They use furs as a blanket, of both sheep and camel origin, and they even produce warm and thick fur topcoats they call « Tôn ». Pictures taken by Sabrina and Roland Michaud in the Wakhan corridor in the 70’s show raw furs used as packaging for camels and covers on the back of horses.3

Dr Nazif Shaharani, author of The Kirghiz and Wakhi of Afghanistan, confirmed the use of such furs as rugs among the Kirghiz and Wakhi people in the Wakhan and Iktamish districts of the Afghan Badakhshan province and called them Postak. He did not however confirm the presence of fur dying processes among these populations and even raised a doubt about the genuine origin of the dyed pieces.4

Detail sheep skin rug

 

Quilted undyed fur rugs with very similar rectangular designs are also used among Siberian Yakoutes tribes who are of Turkic origin and

Decoarative embroidered edge binding

historically fur counsumers, they are also traders like the Kirghiz people. 5

 

Postak, fur covers and blankets, are widespread in the Kabul market and they are allegedly used even in the Pashtun Southern provinces of Afghanistan. They are not quilted but simple pieces of fur. In Wardak Southern province, they are called by the simple word of pashmani (from « pashm », the Persian word for wool). In these areas both Pashtun villagers and semi-nomadic tribes (« Kutchis ») have furs but consider them too costly to be used as mats. 6 It is right that Durani Pashtun are mainly goat breeders and sheep skins are highly prizedamong them. They are used as covers during the night or even folded on the shoulders when seated in either the tent or the house.

Hence it is possible these quilted and dyed furs would have a twofold purpose and could be also used as shoulder covers which could explain the presence of decorative thread on the skin part. A similar practice has been noticed on a mummy found by scientists in Subeshi, not far from Turfan, and dated from the warring states period. 7

Otherwise use of quilted furs is not widespread in the world but one can also notice the similar use of quilted fur mats in Tchad and Mauritania where they are called Khlef, Khlief, Farou and Farouw. 8 And curiously the famous french artist and decorator Armand-Albert Rateau created a very similar collection of fur rugs for the company Lanvin Couture early in the 20th century. 9 At this time occidental artists and decorators often took inspiration among ethonological artifacts from colonies. It is possible Armand did the same.

To summarize one can say that use of furs is a common practise in Central Asia but such quilted furs with both embroideries and unusual dying processes are virtually unknown… They could be the result of a limited and creative attempt by a group of women from the same family. This would explain the limited number of existing pieces, about a dozen,  and the fact they appeared all at once in the market…

Thierry Girard

Back of Kirghiz pieced skin rug

1 - J.Wertime, Hali 100, 1998 p.86

2 – R .B Serjeant, Islamic Textiles, : material for a history up to the Mongol conquest. Beirut 1972 p.p.209

3 -  Roland Michaud et Sabrina Michaud, Caravans to Tartary New York 1978

4 - Dr Nazif Shaharani, personal communication, 2009

5 – V.Gorbatcheva & M.Federona, L’art de Sibérie, Parkstone Press 2008p.191 & 226

6 - Rafiq Sharifi, personal communication, 2008

7 – J.P Mallory & V.Mair, The Tarim Mummies, London 2000 p.25, pl.VI

8 - http://www.quaibranly.fr, items N° 71.1938.48.1, 71.1957.82.117 & 71.1969.70.1

9 – F. Olivier-Vial & F.Rateau, Armand Albert Rateau, les éditions de l'amateur, Paris, 1992, p.127