Of the Turkic people of Central Asia among the oldest identifiable groups are the Kirghiz. In Oriental Rugs A New Comprehensive Guide, Murray Eiland Jr. cites the Chinese Chronicles of the Han dynasty (100 BC to 100 AD) and the eighth century Orkhan inscriptions to show that the Kirghiz are very old. Kirghiz are very special to rug scholars because they have been very isolated from corrupting market influences. By this I mean that there is no, nor has there ever been, a commercial market production of Kirghiz goods so the weavers weave what it is that they have always woven.
These bands are made by a floating warp technique that places limits on width. The wider the band the more difficult it is to weave. This Gajari, at almost 10 inches, is wide for Gajari stripes. I am attributing this to the Kirghiz from the Pamir of Afghanistan. One well known but shy rug expert feels I am wrong on this one and Uzbek from Afghanistan is the proper attribution.
Description: Kirghiz or Uzbek, Afghanistan, Circa 1925. 4 foot 10 by 13 foot.
Structure: Warp faced weave bands cut and sewn together.
Yarn Spin: Z.
Warp: 2 ply wool ground color.
Weft: 2 ply wool, brown.
Ends: warp twined.
Further Notes: Semi-antique piece in very good condition.
Provenance: From the collection of a prominent American Collector/Expert.
A note on attribution: I know a few of you are no doubt asking how in the world can he call this Kirghiz. Well I suppose I am out on a limb so to speak but let me explain my reasoning. Over the years I have seen a number of Uzbek tent bands and owned some. One time George O'Bannon was in town for a talk on non-Turkmen Central Asian weaving and I took two of the bands to his talk and he agreed that they were Uzbek. So I have some familiarity with Uzbek warp face bands. So when I look at this piece, it seems different. Color, color usage, handle and general look seem different from Uzbek. So then I have to ask, is this one of Eiland's Ghilzai Pashtun Gujaris? I do not feel comfortable with that one, so I look for any structural clues.
The selvages are an unusual type. Not many woven items are seen with warp twined band end finishes and Marla Mallett shows two examples in her new book Woven Structures: A Guide to Oriental Rug and Textile Analysis. Marla attributes both examples to the Kirghiz. There is also extensive use of hand spun cotton to give a bright white.
Conclusive proof? No this is a tentative attribution based on guess work, connoisseurship, and tenuous evidence. Nonetheless I feel confident and welcome comments from any who agree or disagree.
Kirghiz or Uzbek - Does it matter?
To a collector or scholar, maybe. But for everyone else, this is a beautiful carpet that is very usable.
Does being Kirghiz make it more valuable?
Not that I know of; neither Uzbek nor Kirghiz seems to be preferred over the other in the marketplace. Both are very desirable.