Because the rug has a specific function, even if it is tightly knotted and firmly woven, it is easily worn by the passage of time. It is therefore not surprising that so few antique rugs have stayed intact.
Since the information that antique rugs give us is limited, it is necessary to use the testimony of writers, poets, painters and sculptors in order to understand that the rug was a part of everyday life in antique civilisations. In the 9th century BC, Homer described dozens of rugs of great value. From that time were left inventories of fabulous loots conquered by the Persians and the Greeks in their wars - the rugs are always among the most valuable items. The crusaders were also fascinated by the treasures of the East and said that the Persians and Turkish carpets are the most beautiful specimens of the world. Because we do not have exact data, information on rugs from the 14th to the 15th century comes mostly from paintings, especially paintings of the Italian and Spanish schools.
The art of rugs appeared at different times and in various civilisations and the fundamental theories on its birth vary. Some attribute it to nomadic peoples whereas others attribute it to sedentary peoples. Some historians think that one has to look for the origin of rugs in the Middle-East but recent stylistic analysis associate this art to the peoples of Central Asia.
Of course, the weaving of rugs is an old practice, and the discovery of the Pazyryk Rug has confirmed the most hazardous hypothesis. This rug is the most ancient rug known to us. It is about 2500 years old and was discovered in 1947 by the Soviet archaeologist S.I.Rudenko inside the tomb of a Schist chief of Pazyryk, hence the name of the rug. This antique artefact is made of wool, it is about four square meters and its stitches are surprisingly fine and regular.
Later on, the situation got more complicated with the discovery of a bit of rug with an illegible pattern and woven in asymmetrical stitches. This bit of rug was found 150 km away from the first rug discovered and it is probably older than the Pazyryk Rug.
The use of the same weaving technique has been noticed in various areas of Central Asia, such as Eastern Turkistan and Mongolia, along the trade route that related China to the West.
The advent of Islam in the 7th century witnessed the beginning of a new era in the art of the Middle-East . The Arabs had a great influence on the arts from the 7th to the 13th century and the production of carpets was developed in all the nations they conquered.
Another important discovery, determinative for the study of the evolution of the rug is provided by Seljuk bits from the 12th century. Great patrons of the arts, the Seljuk tribes developed and improved the weaving techniques, creating new ornamental elements. The bits that are left to us clearly demonstrate these tribes’ great technical skills as well as their profound refinement, due to the strong archaic aspect associated to the artistic tradition of Central Asia. All the samples, entirely made of wool and woven in a few symmetrical stitches are characterised by a polychromy that is as strict as it is fetching. The borders are very large and among the floral patterns, one finds rhombs, eight-branched stars and rosettes. One can also note the presence of stylised floral arabesques inspired from Chinese textiles imported from the Far East.
Numerous ornamental elements are found in Anatolian, Caucasian and Turkestanese and a few Persian productions, which confirms a mutual origin to these peoples. The vocabulary of the ornaments probably comes from only one source and had remained nearly unchanged.
Thanks to Marco Polo it is now known that other than the tribes mentioned before, the Greeks and the Armenians, from the beginning of the 13th century, also played a major role in the rug production.
The great quality of these rugs has allowed them to live through centuries.