In this article, we intend to give a brief overview of the history of Persian carpet. The history of the carpet can be traced back to the beginning of civilization in human societies. Since people felt they could not live on a cold, dusty soil, they began to use the skin of the animals they hunted and the wool of other animals. The history of Persian rugs shows that the need for larger and more beautiful rugs gradually increased with the expansion of urbanization and the construction of different houses.
To meet these needs and to warm their homes, the Iranian people had mastered the production of rugs, and no one could compete with them.
The Iranian people, who were inherently skilled craftsmen, did not want to cover their tents with animal skins for a long time, like the Eskimos or Indians. So they had to come up with something that would better meet their needs, and most importantly, have more color and appeal. In his poems, Homer (Greek poet) mentions Iranian chariots covered with purple rugs. Also, Greek historians, when recording the history of the Iran-Greece wars, have pointed out that Iranians used soft rugs under their beds.
A Review of two historical documents on the history of Persian rugs
In a book published in 1950 about the discoveries of Russian archaeologist Professor Rudenko, he talks about the discovery of a carpet found in the frozen grave of a Scythian king in Mongolia near the Siberian region. Due to the Siberian ices, the carpet has remained remarkably healthy and is currently in the Hermitage Museum. By reviewing the history of the Persian carpet, we conclude that this carpet dates back to 5 centuries BC. Historically, this carpet is attributed to the Iranians because the design and role of its Persian riders and its magnificent weapons are reminiscent of Persepolis. The rug may have been woven in the Iranian-populated areas of Khorasan. The history of the Persian rugs shows that 2500 years ago, the people of Iran wore beautiful carpets with eye-catching colors.
The Sui Chinese calendar from 590 to 617, shortly before the end of the Sasanian period, listed carpets as Iranian goods. Also, the Iranian rug was one of the items the Romans acquired in the war with Khosrow Parviz after the capture and looting. Another proof of the carpet in the Sassanid era is the narration that on the throne of Khosrow Parviz, different carpets were spread on a daily basis.
The story of the Persian carpet after the Mongol invasion of Iran
The devastation and destruction that the Mongol invasion brought with it halted all artistic activity in Iran. But after this period passed and the Ilkhanid kings reigned on Iranian soil, peace returned to the country, and Iranian handicrafts were relatively prosperous. At the end of the Timurid rule, prosperity reached its peak.
The history of the Persian rugs shows that from the beginning of the Safavid era, early in the 10th century, Shah Ismail, while establishing and unifying Iran, brought the best artists and carpet weavers to his capital and he encouraged them with the good rewards he gave them. His son Shah Tahmasb continued his path the same way, and since he had some knowledge of painting, he showed great interest in weaving carpets.
However, it was only in the time of Shah Abbas that, besides the artistic and luxurious aspect of the Iranian carpet, its commercial potential was best known. Carpet production in the days of this king took the form of production of goods. Shah Abbas made Iran’s foreign trade almost a state affair. By his order, many workshops for carpet weaving in Gilan, Kashan, and Isfahan were built.
Transformation in Iranian carpet weaving
The expansion of carpet exports changed the nature of the profession and was done to improve the quality of the profession. One cannot deny the fact that carpets made in Iran between 1700 and 1900 were one of the best in Kerman, Kashan, Qom, and Nayen carpets in terms of gender, design, and texture.
Also, the European interest in Iranian carpets had a significant impact on the growth and development of carpet weaving in Iran. By reviewing the history of Iranian carpets, we can conclude that carpet weaving in Iran did not change much over time.
In spite of the modifications and adjustments made by Iranian carpets in the years that followed to suit the taste of Europeans, they retained the original identity of the Iranian rug and passed on from generation to generation.
Source: Tajvidi Z, Shakeri Rad M. Introduction to Iranian Traditional Arts. Tehran: Payam Noor University; 2008.