Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Trading Posts and the Navajo Rug. By Bruce McLaren

The development of the “Navajo Rug” as we have come to understand it today, was inextricably tied up with the emergence of Trading Posts both in and around the area of the Navajo Reservation. The major source for all of the subsequent artistic and technical innovation in Navajo weaving is to be found in the American Trading Post.

Inside the Crystal Trading Post, effectively a fortified compound. c. 1880

In the previous post on “What is a Navajo Rug” we learnt that originally there was no such thing as a true Navajo Rug. Instead, the Navajo, who were a relative newcomer to the region, had adopted weaving techniques from the indigenous Pueblo Indians, had incorporated wool into their weavings with the arrival of the Spanish in the 1600s, but had only woven blankets and these only in simple stripe patterns, usually limited to undyed wool of white, black and brown. The first dyed color to be introduced into Navajo weaving was blue, from indigo brought by the Spanish.

During the mid-1800s a few intrepid frontiersmen set up trading posts in Navajo country. At this time the region around the “four corners” where the States of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet, was the real Wild West with a wide array of unruly Indian tribes continually raiding each other, but also with an increased Spanish presence. The Spanish had put down roots in Santa Fe in 1600 AD and, although they had been in the region for some time they had been pushed back to some degree and most certainly didn’t have control of the region.

The Trading Posts were one of the first manifestations of the new Anglo influence coming in from the east. Ultimately, they were the first step taken towards a seemingly unavoidable clash with Spanish Mexico. But for now the trading posts were little more than innocuous structures set up beyond the desert frontier, far away from any assistance.

The Trading Posts and the Navajo Reservation

The people who established these Trading Posts were hardy, driven and industrious. Perhaps no better example may be given than Hambleton Noel, who deciding to establish a trading post at Teec Nos Pos, where others had failed before, having been driven away by the Indians. Noel first had to prove his skills with his Remington before a conference of a few hundred Indians decided that he was allowed to stay on account of his courage. Not a job for the faint-hearted!

A Legislative Bill dating back to the time of Washington had laid out terms for trading with the Indian population. The prospective trader had to front a $10000 bond, had to be United States citizens, and were prohibited from selling guns and ammunition and alcohol (although these could easily be obtained off the Reservation). So establishing a Trading Post in these unforgiving lands was a serious commitment.

Despite these obstacles by 1900 there were close to 100 Trading Posts. The Trading Posts thrived as, first the arrival of the train brought a new and inquisitive crowd of tourists, and then the car brought a steady stream. Indigenous Indian products were highly desired items and trade was brisk. Today, these Trading Posts are diminishing in numbers.

A few individuals should be noted for playing an important role in the development of the “Navajo Rug”.

Juan Lorenzo Hubbell established his post at Ganado, Arizona. Hubbell was committed to reproducing the authentic Indian blankets, made in a loose weave, in stripes but also  incorporating crosses and serrated-diamonds (Spanish influence) against a deep red background - what would become known as the classic “Ganado Red”. Hubbell used red dye to great effect by dying yarn twice in aniline red. Hubbell was the first entrepreneur to offer a more heavily woven rug using Navajo designs. He also was the only trader to focus on large area rugs. His success led to him owning fifty trading posts at one time.

Hubbell inspecting weavings at the Ganado Trading Post

The Famous Ganado Red
N-1A Ganado by Southwest Looms

Hubbell, in spite of his respect for the integrity of traditional Indian weaving, was not averse to using foreign materials in order to make business. With the opening of the train line from the east to Santa Fe, new machine spun yarns could be brought in to provide a superior four-ply weave. A lot of this yarn came from the Germantown area of Pennsylvania. This particular “Germantown” rug was made to order by Hubbell for a private client and is now available as a reproduction through Southwest Looms.

Original Germantown Rug
N-4A Germantown Rug by Southwest Looms

Hubbell took the unusual approach of having the designs painted and hung on a wall for the weaver to follow as a template. It is of interest that this is precisely what the Persian traders in Tabriz did when they drew designs to be copied by the Turkomen to the east. The result was the Heriz Rug, one of the most collectible Persian tribal rugs of our time.
Tabriz transformed into Heriz

Another figure of significant note was J.B. Moore of the Crystal Trading Post in New Mexico. Moore was a traditionalist and played with the authentic color-palette of undyed wools. Many of Moore’s designs came out of his imagination and he is credited with providing the inspiration for the Two Grey Hills, the Teec Nos Pos and the Storm designs..
Moore at Crystal Trading Post

The Two Grey Hills trading post has become synonymous with the rug of that name. During a more mature phase of trading post history the local weavers made a marked return at Two Grey Hills to traditional woolen color palettes, grey, white and brown wool with black being the only dye used. The Two Grey Hill rugs features geometric crystalline groupings that may also be seen in the Crystal Rug. Most notably, these rugs were the finest made, with a knot count of 120 knots per square inch, in a market where 50 knots per square inch was considered high standard.

Two Grey Hills Original

N-2 Two Grey Hills by Southwest Looms
The designs produced by more tend to have a much more busy design than seen elsewhere. Many see an association with Caucasian rug designs and sometimes this is difficult to ignore. Just compare the Caucasian rug on the left with a Crystal by Moore.
Authentic Crystal Rug
Southwest looms has also made a Crystal rug design, seen here:

N-10 Crystal by Southwest Looms

As noted above, at one stage there were close to 100 Trading Posts, far too many to examine. For our purposes it has been enough to review a few of the more well known posts that have played a major role in the promulgation and expansion of Navajo Rugs. Some are very simple designs but in yellow colors, like the rug named for the Trading Post Wide Ruins.

Authentic Wide Ruins Rug

N-14 Wide Ruins Rug by Southwest Looms
Another intriguing type of Navajo Rug is the so-called ‘Yei” rug, often mistakenly referred to as “Corn People”. These figurative designs were made at numerous Trading Posts, such as Shiprock and Lukachukai, but have their origins in Navajo sand-drawings. Sand-drawings were sacred and their depiction of “Yei” (figures in the spirit world) made them even more so. At first there was a degree of consternation about making these drawings as utilitarian products, but it remains a little discussed subject.

Yei Rug

So the long and the short of it is that there is not really any such thing as an authentic Navajo rug. A Navajo rug is a hybridization of many different factors - Pueblo weaving; Spanish indigo; red bayeta; Spanish serrated diamonds and cross motifs; American trading posts; machine spun yarn; Caucasian rug designs, and so on. Today, we at Southwest Looms are continuing this tradition by adding our own skills to make reproductions of these wonderful weavings.

At Southwest Looms our Navajo rug reproductions faithfully follow the exact weaving techniques of authentic Navajo rugs and employ lazy lines, whipstitch side-edging and corner tufting. Flatweave carpets lack pile and consist solely of warp and weft. Different colors of wool weft produce the design.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

What is a Navajo Rug? By Bruce McLaren

What is a Navajo Rug?

Over here in the USA there is somewhat an obsession with the term “Navajo Rugs”. Having been to the Southwest of the Great Republic and seen the eternal turquoise skies and blazing red deserts, of mile deep ravines and lands ripped apart, I too can recognize an instant correlation between that most dramatic part of the world and the designs and color schemes favored by the Indigenous Inhabitants.

The main tribal group traditionally found in the four corners area of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah are the Navajo, who now occupy a vast reservation. As anyone who has travelled through the Reservations knows, this is a dry, desert land, of high mesas and semi-arid conditions. This is also the traditional area of the Pueblo Indians, who occupied the area one thousand years ago and most famously lived as cliff dwellers up on the Mesa Verde, and in turn are closely related to the Anasazi who lived along the river beds of the Grand Canyon.

Location of Navajo Country
 During the period 1000-1500 AD the Navajo gradually settled in this area, having made the journey from Alaska. In fact, some Indigenous groups in Alaska have the same parent tongue as the Navajo and can even understand parts of Navajo. The linguistic group is known as Athapascan. Navajo was also used during the war by the allies as the Germans could not decipher it, but that is another story and one that has been widely told elsewhere.

The Pueblo Indians who occupied this region before the arrival of the Navajo had become quite sedentary and harvested season crops up on the mesas. The Pueblo settlements were located in naturally defended cliff walls and survive virtually intact today. The Navajo, on the other hand, were more wild and unruly, making their living by raiding other Indian Tribes.

Pueblo Cliff Dwellings. Mesa Verde

Many attest that the idea of weaving first passed from the Pueblo to the Navajo and that is almost certainly most likely. The Pueblo had been weaving, using simple over and under techniques in order to makes baskets and other objects, for centuries. Soon, the Navajo were surpassing their Pueblo neighbors in the weaving arts.

Navajo Loom

Now to hark back to my first sentence there is a widespread fascination with Navajo Rugs over here in the United States. This general wonder at all things Indian really first took place in the mid 1850s when the train opened up the grand Southwest to the average American. Indian designs, folklore, belief systems and associated products like woven blankets, became immensely popular in the later 1800s and remain so today.

In fact, there is hardly a hotel west of the Mississippi that does not have a Navajo blanket or rug. Just take a look at this snapshot from The Shining showing one of the many marvelous Navajo rugs in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

Stanley Park. Estes Hills, CO

Glancing back over the terrain we have just covered it is clear that the concept behind a Navajo Rug has all of the ingredients of a hybridization. The Navajo, originally arrived from the northwest, dominated the indigenous Pueblo Tribe, but learning the art of weaving along the way. Well, what did that old Navajo weaving look like. Let’s take a look at the structure.

Navajo Weave

Navajo weave is basically a relatively simple type of looped flat weave with the yarn pulled very tight to compress the warp and weft strings. Plain stripes or geometric motifs predominate. But let us go back to the very earliest surviving remnants to see what they looked like. The piece below was found in the so-called “Massacre Cave” where a large number of Navajo who had taken shelter in a cave were killed. This piece of fabric is typical of the earliest know pieces, comprising only straight lines, and woven in the three dominant types of sheep wool – white, black and brown. No dyes were involved.

"Massacre Cave" fragment

As the name “Massacre Cave” suggests, the Navajo were faced with difficult times as first the Mexican-Spanish made their way up to Santa Fe in 1600 AD and claimed the Navajo territory as their own. The Mexicans technically oversaw this anarchic region for the next few centuries, with no real attempt to rule effectively, rather, raiding the Indian Tribes themselves for slaves and other goods.

In spite of all of this the newfound connection with the Mexicans meant access to new materials. The first two products of note to make their way into the world of Navajo arts were indigo-blue as a dye and the introduction of wool. For the first time Navajo blankets were made with wool instead of just cotton. The use of blue is evident in this example of a “1st Phase Chief Blanket” which combines blue with traditional sheep wools with natural colors. Again, note that this early blanket is simply a striped  garment with no ornamentation.

Chief Blanket Phase 1. c.1800 AD

More Spanish influences may be noted in the use of the so-called Saltillo Diamond, which later made its way into many Navajo designs but was thoroughly a Spanish motif. Also, as may be noted from the color of this Saltillo Serape, products made by the Spaniards using red bayeta made their way to Navajo lands, where the red thread was undone and employed in new Navajo weavings.

Saltillo Serape
Chief Blanket Phase 2. c.1850

The Chief Blankets are the most diagnostic Navajo weaving and are so-called because it was usually only the chief who could afford to wear one. A Phase 1 Chief Blanket with blue lines was valued recently on Antiques Road-show to be worth in excess of $400 000, so that is a measure of the market for these older pieces.

Still, the salient point to emerge from all of this is that Navajo designs were originally comprised of stripes, not patterned motif, even up until the later variations at the end of the century.

Chief Blanket Phase 3. c.1870 AD

Chief Blanket Variation with cross. c. 1870 AD
While in this example the chief blanket incorporates clear Spanish cross influences. This in turn became The Harding, the most popular selling design made by Pendelton Woollen Mills and the first design they patented, which they now produce in conjunction with us right here at Southwest Looms.

To return to the emerging theme – Navajo Rugs are a hybridization, of Pueblo influences, Navajo influences, Spanish influences, and, last but not least, Anglo influences.

By the mid-1800’s the American Government had pushed west towards Spanish territory and in the 1850s had pushed Mexico out. The Navajo, as was the fate of most Indigenous Indians, were treated particularly harshly, being rounded up and forced to march 300 miles to Bosque Redondo in south-eastern New Mexico. Many died as a result. Fortunately, with four years the error had been acknowledged the Navajo were allowed to return to their ancestral lands.

In this wild frontier some hardy and enterprising types set up trading posts where Indian made goods could be sold to travelers. Some of these trading posts were established at places, many of whose names are associated with a rug design - Ganado, Gallup, Crystal, Teec Nos Pos, Two Gray Hills and Wide Ruins.

Ganado Trading Post

But as we have already seen but have yet to comment upon – the Navajo only ever made blankets, or Serapes. They never made rugs! None the less, we at Southwest looms have made some Serape designs as rugs.


                  Serape N-12 by Southwest Looms alongside an antique Serape

That is, at least until the westerners on the Trading Posts, sought to get the Navajo weavers to make rugs. In order to do this, they imported machine-spun yarn from Germantown Pennsylvania, Analine dyes, and Asiatic rug designs to serve as a template. At the turn of the century rugs from the Caucasus were very much in demand. As a result, these basic designs were reproduced.

An old Caucasian rug used as a template for a Navajo Design

So all of the motifs, the diamonds, the strange guls, unfortunately have no real significance for the Navajo, who were weaving purely for a western market. Anyone searching for deeper meaning in these patterns is sadly led astray. These designs are the product of the mind of western man. But the rather strange point to take away from this all is how the concepts behind a Navajo rug as made today are an incredible hybrid of influences from all over the place.

The western market also includes rugs, so these designs are much using a heavier construction. Here at Southwest looms we are proud to think that our Dreamcatcher Line of Navajo rugs takes old designs, so typical of the colorful vibrancy of Navajo country and culture, and have produced a true thing of beauty.

Our Navajo reproductions faithfully follow the exact weaving techniques of authentic Navajo rugs and employ lazy lines, whipstitch side edging and corner tufting. Flatweave carpets lack pile and consist solely of warp and weft. Different colors of wool weft produce the design.

Our authentic Navajo reproductions allow clients the opportunity to showcase this look in their homes at an affordable price. Original Navajos are expensive and too rare and fragile to be used as floor covering. Very few large Navajo rugs were woven and when available are very expensive. It is difficult to find authentic Navajo rugs larger than 5x7. Our reproductions afford the opportunity to have this look in large rugs (6x9-10x14) or even larger for custom orders.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Good Stuff #2. An Antique Persian Heriz. By Bruce McLaren

With this blog we continue our look at some of the more rare rugs that we have in stock. Last time around it was a classic Bidjar. Today it is an old Heriz.

The typical Heriz design with bold geometric lines and elaborate medallions is one of the most distinctive and recognisable in the world of antique persian rugs. However, the term tern 'Heriz' is bandied about a bit more often than it should be, regularly confused with 'Serapi' rugs, which are effectively very old Heriz rugs.

So let's take a look at one - not the oldest one or the finest one in the store, but a very good representative model for out purposes, exhibiting all of the classic design features of an Antique Heriz, geometric lines, elaborate medallion, good use of vegetable dyes, prominant use of yellow (rare).

In order to better understand the background to this classic Persian rug we should take a glance at geography and the role that history has played in the district of Heriz, for, as across Persia, history goes back a long way and provides many of the answers we search for.

Heriz is a village set in the eastern part of Azerbaijan Province in Iran. This is the more north-westerly part of Persia, and, as the name implies, has a significant Azeri and Turkish element. The most influential city in the region is Tabriz, some fifty miles to the west of Heriz. Tabriz has a long and storied history and came to prominance under the Mongols during the 13th century. The Mongol Ghazan Khan converted to Islam, establishing the Islamic Mongol Il-Khanid Dynasty, the capital of which was made at Tabriz.

The important outcome of this development was that Turkish hordes arrived and settled in the area. Today, the region is wholly Turkish and the language spoken is Turkic. So culturally and linguistically Azerbaijan Province is extremely different from the rest of the country and is viewed with a degree of distrust and misgiving by the Persian majority.

The significance for rug-making is clear. Because the people that inhabit the region are Turks they use the Turkish knot when weaving, as opposed to the more commonly employed Persian knot. A glance at the map below illustrates how difficult it can be to pin the origins of various rugs down, with various groups, mostly those with a stronger nomadic culture, using the Turkish knot, and more settled groups emplying the Persian knot.

Turkish Knot
Persian Knot
So yes, the Heriz, naturally enough, uses a Turkish knot. But now let's focus more closely on the geography, for the area to the east of Tabriz over a region barely 20 miles squared, provides a plethora of different types of well-known rug designs. In fact, this little pocket of land is traditionally the most productive region of Persia when it comes to rugs.

A lot of this can be attributed to the close proximity of Tabriz, which by 1800 AD had a long, esteemed history as a major trade center between east and west. Nearly all Persian production passed north-west, through Tabriz, and then onto Turkey, Russia and Europe.

Heriz is the central village in the region between Tabriz and the Savalan Massif. Heriz is head of a dozen or so villages that make the same type of carpet, using the Turkish knot and double weft. The best carpets are made in Heriz itself. Bakshaish rugs, another common name, are from one of these lesser villages, although the Bakshaish holds the reputation for having the longest production history, although not the finest product.

Also of note here, but to be discussed some other time, are two other significant groups. The first lies between Heriz and Tabriz and is the Karajeh district. Karajeh rugs are very well known and all employ the same highly distinctive motifs. These rugs are single wefted but closely woven. The other major area lies to the south-east from Heriz on the road from Tabriz to Ardebil, and is the town of Sarab, which also makes highly distinctive designs. So a LOT has taken place in this really rather small region, when it comes to Persian rugs.

Map showing the Heriz district
Up until 1800 AD or so the villagers in the region to the east of Tabriz had woven the long and narrow pieces with repetitive motifs, so typical of Turkoman rugs. But the Tabriz merchants, seeing the growing market for big area rugs, began pushing for the villagers to adapt their own curvilinear designs into designs made using their own weaving styles and techniques. This is nowhere better illustrated than in this remarkable comparison below, showing a Heriz reproduction of a Tabriz.

Tabriz on left. Heriz on right
So the Heriz rug has a strange story behind it. Not only is the Heriz one of the most sought after Antique Persian carpets, it is often mistakenly considered to be a nomadic tribal carpet when that is only partly true - the original impetus for the Heriz rug (one of the most common rug types in the limited pool of authentic Antique Rugs) did not come from the Turks in Heriz but the merchants in Tabriz. The Turks of Heriz adapted their own, less refined, weaving techniques, often just taking a partial sketch of a highly detailed Tabriz, and running with that idea using their own more coarse nomadic techniques.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

New Treasures From Tibet. By Bruce McLaren

Every now and then you find fortune in the humble wool of a sheep's back. Such is the case here, when, at a recent purchase of a large group of rugs we came across some fairly rare Tibetan rugs.

Now modern Tibetan rugs are not at all rare these days, and they pretty much corner the market when it comes to high-quality contemporary designs. But here is the thing. First of all the modern "Tibetan" rug market is actually a Nepalese rug market. Rugs designated as "Tibetan" today are in fact made by Tibetans who had to flee from Tibet to Nepal due to Chinese expansionism. Tibetan wool is of a high grade. The knot is the classic Tibetan knot, that seems to be tattooed on the neck or shoulder of every second young woman these days. So the long and the short of it is that although there are many modern "Tibetan" rugs, there are not many real antique Tibetan rugs out there.

A few blogs ago I focussed on Tibetan tiger rugs. In the course of that blog I outlined how exceedingly rare these Tibetan rugs are. There are reports that there are only a few hundred "old" Tiger rugs out there - meaning from the early 1800s. I also mentioned how it was only in relatively recent times that the very first Tibetan rug was smuggled/purchased and brought out of Tibet, to find a new home in the Smithsonian. So was the first incursion made by Western curiosity into the material culture of Tibet, a name that conjures up a rosy tint in the imagination of most westerners. Here is a photo of this much spoken of particular rug...Observe the motifs, particularly the roses and T border - these come into the discussion later.

Top saddle rug. The famous first Tibetan rug to appear in the west, now in the Smithsonian.
Part of the reason why we know so little about antique Tibetan rugs is the inaccessibility of the region. Perhaps the most concetrated area of Tibetan rug production is in the Nyang River Valley, which flows north from the Himalayas and into the Brahmaputra, which flows west to east before empying out into the Bay of Bengal. This area represents the small "bite" taken by China between Nepal and Bhutan. This region is effectively south central Tibet. It is a stone's throw away from Thimbu up in Bhutan.

The same geography that has kept this region so remote also has contributed to so much Tibetan rug production being undertaken in this region. Much of Tibet is arid. But the waters flowing off the mountains into major and secondary river valleys are bountiful and the land is good for pastoral activities. The wool is soft and high quality. So this area was an epi-center of Tibetan rug production.

And on a final geographic note, it is important to realise that this part of the Himalayas was the entrypoint for expensive indigo from India.

Before we look at our pieces, it should quickly be said that Tibetan rug-making has generally fallen outside of the more detailed histories of Persian and Turkish schools. The knot is different and generally low-knot counts were used, even as low as 15 knots per, inch, which is about as low as you can go. Some Persian Isfahan carpets, by comparison, were made using closer to 800 knots per square inch.

The Tibetans also made textiles more in keeping with their own cultural requirments, lots of fittings and trappings for transport, ornamental throne seats, and most importantly in this particular case, the khaden, or sleeping mat, of which we have four show here, along with one saddlebag. These sleeping mats are exceedingly rare. But in this lot we discovered four - lets take a look at them.

The Group. Four Khaden rugs and one saddlebag.

So, what do you think? Colorful, aren't they? Very pretty stuff. And if they are old and rare, very pretty and expensive stuff. Now here are the four pieces in detail, placed in what I think is the chronological order. I will explain my reasons below.

Khaden #1


Khaden #2

Khaden #3

Khaden #4

Yes indeed, very pretty! But what age? What value? One would think that there had been 100 books written on Tibetan rugs but that is not the case. There is very little literature on the subject. The problem is that even in this day and age when we can go to the moon we still don't know much about these old Tibetan pieces from the Nyang River Valley.

It is well worth recalling that the predatory powers of Britain and Russia didn't really manage to mount any real expedition into Tibet until close to 1900 - not to say that this was not familiar terrain for the spies of "The Great Game".

Here is a rare photo from the 1890s showing a Tibetan priest seated on a Tiger Rug. As was discussed in my blog on tiger rugs the tiger motif was meant to possess protective powers. I show this picture because the tiger rug is of the abstract tiger stripe school, divided into two halves, with a pearl border and the stupa-rose. Now go to the first image at the top of this blog. You are already familiar with the tiger rugs. But compare this particular rug to the one at the top of this blog, the one housed in the Smithsonian. Compare the stupa-roses, which are identical, as well as the pearl border. What this tells us is that we are dealing with the same carpet tradition here. Not only tiger rugs but also these more elaborate Tibetan pieces probably, at least stylistically, came from the same source.

Tiger rug beneath priest table. Alongside matching Khamdrum rug.1880s.

Stylised Tibetan tiger rug, showing border elements typical of the Nyang River.
So let's look at some genuine old Khaden rugs from the early 1800s. They can easily be sorted into groups based on design. The first group, shown below, has three medallions, stupa-roses, pearl inner borders and interlocking T outer borders.
Khaden, sitting and sleeping rugs, with interlocking T border. Early 19th century AD.
Here is a second group of old pieces. Again, three madallions is the norm, but this time with a pearl inner border and a running swastika outer border.
More khaden rugs with interlocking swastika motif.
Discussion. So what can we make out of our own rugs?

First, we know that the four khaden we possess are far more colorful than anything classified as a genuine antique. The orange in the fourth khaden looks suspiciously artificial, although natural sources of orange were relatively available. However, the blue in the first khaden looks like real indigo.

Design-wise there are also very noticeable differences. There are no pearl borders, no T borders, no swastika borders. The three medallion pattern is still adhered too but the first khaden, the indigo khaden, has an all-over pattern that is not seen in the really old antiques.

Of course, as rug collectors, this is not necessarily the news you want to hear. You want to be told that you have rugs that should be in the Smithsonian, sell them and retire. But that is not about to happen and here is why...

Khaden of the early 1900s.

Look at this sample of khaden from the early 1900s. Stylistically, our Khaden #1 has much more in common with the left-most piece, which also lacks any border. And the orange in the our Khaden #4 has a lot in common with the third piece depicted here. Perhaps most important is the adoption of Chinese elements in the design, seen most prominently in the "rainbow border", the multi-colored stripes, of the fourth rug, but also in two of our own pieces.

The "China-fication" of khaden at this time should come as no mystery. Throughout the 1800s the Turks of Central Asia and the Chinese had been fighting it out for control of what was traditionally known as Eastern Turkestan. This is the region to the east of the Pamirs, which drops down into the Tarim Basin, and, further south, the Tibetan Plateau. Up until around 1900 the Turks maintained the upper hand in this region, and the Tibetan rug styles could be argued to find their origins in this Turkish influence.

But then the Chinese got the upper hand, and, after Mao, really cemented the Chinese position, incorporating this area into Xinjiang Province ("The New Province"). If you have been following the news you will have seen in the past year many clashes between the indigenous Turkish Uyghurs and the Chinese who have been migrating west to this new province, in the process stamping out any Turkic exoticism in favour of a Sovietski concrete blocks. It is a disgusting and unforgiveable shame. Silk Road wonders such as Kashgar, Yarkhand and Khotan are being stripped of all that was once mysterous and wonderful, in favour of the cold and clinical decisions made by bureaucrats in Beijing. The taking of Tibet is a land-grab of enormous proportions, that, if it had happened in Europe, would have led to certain war. Alas, for the poor Tibetans.

Of course, all of this is closely tied up with dating the rugs. With Mao there was a general exodus of Tibetans, led by the Dalai Lama, from Tibet into Nepal and India. I think we can safely assume that these khaden were baggage in this exodus, before ultimately ending up in the western market.

But if there are Chinese motifs in increasing numbers after 1900 then one must presume that the Tibetan rug makers were catering to Chinese needs. This must also predate the Tibetan exodus, for no Tibetan worth his salt would make a Chinese style Tibetan rug.

So my guess is this. These khaden were probably made sometime between 1890 and 1940. They are a combination of vegetable and artificial dyes. Khaden of this vintage are selling, rarely, at auction in the vicinity of $3000 each.

But I think these are grossly underestimately values. The reason being that we are dealing with a very limited pool of pieces made in a small area over a short period. These types of rugs are still largely unknown. Once there is a more widespread appeciation for the rarity of these Tibetan khaden, their value is sure to sky-rocket.