South Persian Tribal Rugs
Iran is a nation of tribes . The 24 satraps depicted on the great staircase at Persepolis were tribal chiefs paying homage to the Great King of the Acheminids . Outsude the cities , Persia is fringed with tribes : Bakhtiaris , Baluchis and Kurds , Shahsavan and Turkman , as well as the major south Persian tribal groups . The Qashqai , Khamseh , Luri and Afshar are at least partly nomad , and are the most important producers of colourful , abstract , semi-geometric rugs in Iran . The southern curve of the country, from Kerman in the east to the upper reaches of the Persian Gulf on the west , is their home .
Probably the most famous and accomplished are the Qashqai, a large tribal group located around Shiraz in Fars Province . Still seasonally nomadic, at least in part , the Qashqai , originally of Turkic origin , with numerous sub-tribes and small segments , weave a wide range of rugs : finely ( Persian = asymmetrically ) knotted geometric rugs with pole medallions ; overall pattern scatters with classic Persian designs ; silk wefted prayer rugs ; gabbehs in simple , austere patterns and few colours ; saddlebags in a characteristic medallion layout ; and stark , bright , geometric Kilims . The best work emanated from around Firuzabad where a local rug-weaving school is renowned for its skilled and imaginative graduates . Wool foundations are standards on older pieces . The excellent pile wool is locally sourced and is the best of all the south Persian groups . The rugs generally do not exceed 6’x10’ in size .
The Khamseh ( The “Five” ) , located to the west of the Qashqai , are not a true tribe , but a confederation established in the mid-19th century by the Shiraz governor to offset Qashqai political influence . As a result , their rugs are more structurally varied , with either the Persian or Turkish ( symmetric ) knot , but wool foundations , are usual . One way to distinguish Khamseh and Qashqai work is the warp : Khamsehs tend to mix darker brown wool , whereas the Qashqai use ivory wool . No prayer rugs are made , but the boteh and chicken motives are popular , distinguishing Khamseh from Qashqai . The pile is less dense than on Qashqai rugs .
Further west still are the Lurs , one of the oldest Iranian tribal groups . Their rugs are thicker and coarser , woven mostly with the Persian knot , with more Kurdish influence at their northwestern reach . Again , colourful geometrics prevail with overall patterns of flowers or diamonds frequent . The colour schemes , emphasizing dark blue , yellow , ivory and strong reds are the same as their neighbours . There are no prayer rugs , and neither chicken nor botehs are found .
The Afshars arrived in the 18th century and are a distinct tribe of Turkman origin . They populate the countryside around Kerman near Lake Niriz . Their diversity is reflected in the rugs : Persian or Turkish knot ; wool or medallion patterns employing vases , pomegranates , botehs , lattices , bouquets , textile patterns , even the occasional Turkman gul . The wool quality varies , but in the older pieces is excellent . Some antique Afshar pieces copy motives from Kerman carpets .
All groups weave for both domestic use and external sale . Good examples from each group are becoming more and more rare and their value is increasing
Prayer rugs and runners are not woven , but a few very large carpets exist . Scatter sizes predominate and their bags share a decorative vocabulary with other south Persian groups . Soumac weave rugs and bags are an Afshar specialty .