The Armenian Highland is one of the centres of carpet weaving origin and development. Armenian carpets differ with their art forms, wealth and originality of patterns, as well as with high skills of making them.
In his work “Eastern Carpets”, art-critic Folkmar Gantshorn states:
"Eastern carpets don't come from nomadic tribes or from Central Asia. These carpets are work of the eastern people living in Armenia, who lived at the intersection of the oldest trade roads of the west, north, and south. "
Armenian carpets differ with their art forms, wealth and originality of patterns, as well as with high skills of making. They are well-known to the whole world. Many ancient Armenian carpets were preserved not only in the most popular museums in the world but also in the works of Renaissance artists. And till now, Armenian carpets are highly valued around the world. The carpets and rugs (lint-free carpets) were originally a domestic necessity and were made in almost all houses and only then became objects of decoration and art.
The fact that carpet weaving had been developed in Armenia since ancient times is evidenced by Neolithic and medieval carpets found in Areni Cave in 2007. The last ones have been preserved quite well. This makes it possible to explore their origin and development. Besides, primal carpet weaving tools dating from the 3-2 millennium BC were found during archeological excavations in Teghut, Shengavit and in other places. In the grave-stones of Harich, remains of the XIII-XII century(BC) carpets were found. The most ancient carpets(XVI-IX century BC) in Armenia were found in one of the oldest sepulchers of Artik. The patterns are curved crosses, S-shaped patterns, which are still used in the manufacture of Armenian carpets. The fact that people in the Urartian period knew with the manufacture of carpets show found in the castle Teyshebani (VII century d. N. E.) Carpet pieces.
Pazyryk carpet was found in the Altai Mountains. It is kept in the Hermitage museum. The carpet was found in the grave, and due to the fact that it had been frozen for 2500 years, it reached us in pretty good conditions. According to some scientists, (R. Hubel, B. Brend) this carpet can be attributed to Armenian art because it was woven in the Armenian Highland region.
The Armenian Highland was rich in various colors. The most popular color was “Armenian” mentioned by Strabo. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that, in the Caucasus, wool was dyed with paints, which were made from plants that didn't glaze over time. The red color, which was made from the Armenian cochineal was called “Vordan Karmir”. It was known far beyond the borders of Armenia.
The Middle Ages is considered the Golden Age of the Armenian carpet weaving because at this time, based on a rich variety of patterns and forms from an earlier period the stylistic features of Armenian carpets were formed.
Armenian carpets were traded in Europe and Asia. In many houses of medieval Europe's rich classes, Armenian carpets were an important part of the decoration.
In his writings, merchant Florentine Francesco Balducci Pegolotti indicated that in the XIII century carpets were imported into Florence from the cities of Cilician Armenia. The Arabic and Byzantine medieval sources also mention Armenian carpets, which have great value. So, during the Arab conquest, a tribute paid the Caliph with carpets, too.
In the middle of the century, starting with the IX-X centuries, in addition to the Armenian Highland and historical Armenia, carpets were also made in the Armenian colonies that arose in Europe and Asia (Egypt, Iran, Ukraine, Poland, etc.).
An important feature of Armenian carpets is using knot twice. This is a known Armenian technology, which expends carpets' lives. It is characteristic that in some regions of Iran the knot is called “Armani baf”, which means the Armenian knot and the origin of which has a 2500- year history.
Despite the general forms and styles, Armenian carpets are diverse and unique.
The carpets can be divided by subject matters, by structure and execution, also by territorial basis.
So, there is a colorful-floral type that includes carpets, in the manufacture of which flower and plant patterns are used, among which the "Tree of Life" pattern has a special place. There are also types of carpets having different forms of cross on them. Carpets with geometrical patterns. Also "Vishapagorgs" or "dragon" carpets- carpets with thematic patterns and so on.
All patterns used on Armenian carpets had a special meaning. The main patterns which were/are used on Armenian carpets are:
The cross is a symbol of Sun, light, and life. This is a symbol of God existence.
The curved cross is a symbol of cosmic power. It is also called The sun sign. Lily is a symbol of Christ and the Virgin Mary. “Տ” and “Յ” are purely Armenian symbols. “Տ” is the first letter of Ter, which means God, Omnipotent. As already noted, the pattern “Տ was also used in pre-Christian times and symbolized “vishaps”, the oldest water spirits.
In mythological and Biblical spiritual systems, Tree of Life symbolizes life from birth to the end, the highest goal of which is immortality.
A ram horn is one of the frequently repeated features in carpets. Probably, not only because the ram was a totem for the ancient Armenians and symbolized fertility, but also because from the wool of rams many weaving carpets were originally made. The symbols as a hawk, tiger, snake and other animals used as patterns had totem meaning.
The hawk is associated with majesty, power, courage, victory and spiritual ascent.
The snake is one of the common animal symbols. In Armenian mythology and in legends it has contradictions- on one hand, revengeful and insidious and patron on the other hand.
The carpets included patterns in the form of fruit, as:
Apple symbolizes fertility and luxury, as well as deception and death. Apple is a fruit of Tree of Life- a symbol of life and sin.
Grenade symbolized fertility, bounty, and generosity. It was dedicated to Goddesses of love and motherhood.
It was an important piece of decorative art. Armenian carpets haven't lost their place and meaning in world art. Nowadays, the art of carpet weaving continues to develop. You can get acquainted with this interesting craft by choosing our special tours around Armenia, which include carpet weaving master-class.