Baluch nomads, Meshed, 1973,
photo by Paul Shaper

July 1985

Rugs of rather coarse structure are found in Darbaz, southern Gha’inat. These rugs have three or four large lozenges in the field. Three or more boldly designed parallels emerge from each lozenge in both directions. The whole design reminds of Shirwan rugs, like Eiland (1976) illustrates them on plate 159. These pieces are, however, made by Arabzadeh clans of whose history no details could be found out. The reproduction of three or four “mah” polygons in the field has to be viewed as an original pattern of a Balouch clan from the region of Ferdows. There is no Afshar influence (see Fig. 9).

[This five-part article originally appeared in print in Volume 5/4 of Oriental Rug Review, July 1985, and is reprinted here with that publication’s kind permission. Translated from German by Lola Froehlich, August, 1981. Reviewed by Dr. Wegner, May, 1985]

The above regional classification of the groups of weavers and their characteristic patterns is rather reliable. As an example of how much caution is required in determining the origin of rugs, a rug will be presented in Fig. 34, that has an unmistakably Afshar medallion and an Afshar format. The knotting structure points, however, to Balouch weavers. The rug was indeed made by a small group of sheep-raising Balouch, who had lived at the oasis of Torogh near Meshed (!) for two generations until 1930. Nothing has been found out about their present whereabouts.


At the time of this research work there were not to be found—neither on-site, nor in the bazaars of Meshed, Turbett-i-Heidari, and Kashmar—any rugs with field designs of the medallion kind from the regions of Bidjestan, Kashmar, Mahwalat, Turbett-i-Heidari, Djulghe Khaf and Djulghe Rokh. In the greater region of Nishapure were produced, however, rugs with single rows of three or four squares (see Fig. 15). Besides those they show three or four large, sometimes bizarre figures with attached latch-hooks. They are arranged above each other in the field (see Black, 1976, table 10). The earlier mentioned “multiple field” rugs (see Fig. 16) originate, however, mostly in the areas north of Meshed and in the Djulghe Djam. The Moreidari from the Djulghe Bakharz weave center fields with one single row of lozenges, which stretch across the horizontal direction and have attached latch-hooks. Very similar arranged lozenges, but with a greater number of more elaborate details, seem to be typical of the Kuduani in Djaffergegh, northeast Afghanistan. Janata (1978: II and oral information) lists the Kuduani among the Timuri sub-tribes. A very impressive design in rather finely knotted rugs is attributed to the neighboring Mushawani (see Fig. 1). The colorfulness of their rugs is striking, because it is unusual in this area. Among other colors, medium blue, brick red, and Russian green are used without them clashing. The rounding of the hooks almost into spirals is also typical. These weavers’ ethnic origin is controversial. Today they consider themselves Balouch rather than Afghan Pathens like they used to.

In the same region an apparently rather similar pattern is used by Maududi, one of the important sub-tribes of the Djamshidi (Janata 1966: 144 and oral information).

The ethnic origin of still another group of weavers is very much in question. Their pattern, which is found in quite a big area, consists of a sometimes irregular composition of different figures with diameters up to 30 cm. When repeated, the figures are not always of the same size. Some of them remind us of big flowers on old manufactured rugs from Herat and Khorassan, others of cartouches on a trapezoid base, or of the “all-over” pattern as in Fig. 28. But sometimes the teeth and hooks seem to be mere imaginary forms. The prevailing colors are dark blue, dark brown, and dark red. Thus these rugs, that are also made in bigger sizes, give an overall dark impression (see Thatcher 1940, Table 49; McCoy 1974, Table 20; Eiland 1976, Color Plate XI, and Black 1976, Table 27). The two first mentioned authors assign these rugs to Balouch in Adreskand, southeast of Herat. Eiland attributes them to the Mushawani north of Herat, and Black mentions a sub-tribe of the Durani (Wegner 1964: 147). Therefore, we cannot exclude that the “Adreskand” rugs were made by several neighboring groups of different ethnogenesis. Another example for the deformation of floral designs originally seen in Persian carpets but changed into geometrical and sometimes bizarre alienated ornaments can be found with the Kot’lu nomads. These are a sub-tribe of the Afshar Turkomans and live south of Kirmau.

As mentioned before, a pattern has to be applied on pile-weave products of different formats and for various uses before it can be regarded as traditional and important. Thus, almost all the patterns, that were presented in this article, could be identified as prayer rugs, too.  Prayer rugs are recognized by the “mihrab”, the prayer-niche on one small side of the rug, that makes the center field asymmetrical. There are also traditional patterns, that are used on prayer rugs only. The ensuing diversity of patterns would still have to be described in detail. This is not possible within the scope of this paper. Therefore, only one prayer rug with typical field design was presented (Fig. 33). It needs to be mentioned, however, that there are also prayer rugs without “mihrab” among Balouch and their non-Turkoman neighbors. Rugs with a tree of life or a variant of it—not necessarily on a camel-colored or white ground—belong under this rubric. Also, other features can make a rug a definite “dja namez,” i.e., “place for praying.” The rug shown in Fig. 10 belongs in this category: It has the little octagon at one small side just inside the field, marking the place where the praying person’s forehead touches the ground. It has sharply defined color changes in the border at the other small end of the rug, giving the impression of a “baseboard.”

It also needs to be pointed out that the multitude of border designs could not be discussed here. Patterns that were found in a bigger geographical area could often only be assigned to certain weavers and/or a certain province on the grounds of their combination with certain border patterns.

At the end of these discussions it is essential to recall to mind once more that results from on-site research obtained already between 1950 and 1960 were used. Since then, nomads have become sedentary, or at least semi-sedentary. Hardly accessible places and regions have been opened up by roads. Demand and supply of foreign markets have reached formerly self-sufficient areas and subsequently changed their political, social and economic structure. Thus it may be difficult today to find all the above mentioned groups of weavers in the same regions and under the same names, that they were formerly proud of. Therefore, this article is meant to incite new field studies. Future studies need to confirm, correct and mainly complement previous findings, so that we can deepen our knowledge about the Balouch. The pile rugs of these fascinating people are a remarkable example of how the Balouch have developed a truly independent textile representation of their material culture, in spite of repeated absorption of foreign ethnic elements and under constant and considerable pressure from hostile neighbors. May the Balouch be able to keep their tradition and culture in the future.

Access to publications by Russian ethnographers is often difficult because of language reasons. The translations of part of Gafferberg’s work from 1969 and of his complete publication from 1973 are therefore very valuable. I thank Dr. med. Irmgard Wegner for them. I am also very much obliged to her for lending me the picture for Fig. 3, 4, 5, 8, 17, 25, 32. The picture for Fig. 1 was provided by Dr. med. F. G. L. Gremliza, an old friend of mind since our days together in Iran. All the other figures and illustrations are the property of the author. Copyright 1985 by Dr. Dietrich H. G. Wegner

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV