Archive for May, 2006

Mystery fortress: the citadel in Herat built by Alexander of Macedonia

May 25, 2006

Max Allen has sent these images in the hope that someone will recognise the subject matter. See his comments and questions below…

fort 1.jpg

fort 2.jpg

fort 3.jpg

This building, as depicted on a number of rugs which have recently come onto the market, looks rather like a medieval fort with turrets and battlements. On one side of its apparently slanted roof are three towers (for the sake of comparison, I have reversed image number two so the towers are on the right, like the others.). In front there is a large, empty and apparently sandy area, behind which there seems to be a terrace leading up to a fence. At the lower left, and often across the middle of the rug, are superimposed “pictures” of the sort found on old tourist postcards. What is this scene, and where did this way of depicting it come from?


Rug 1 (top) woven left end first, knots open left of a peculiar glossy (commercial? Australian?) wool, fine mixed tan wool warps on one level, edges overcast with black wool.

Rug 2 (middle) woven left end first, knots open left of coarse dry wool, board-like handle (like a Bidjar), very thick white wool warps on one level, edges overcast with red wool.

Rug 3 (bottom) woven right end first, knots open left of fine dry wool, fine white wool warps aternately slightly depressed, edges overcast with black wool.

Feedback: Kevin Sudeith (at solves the question on his own blog – it’s the citadel in Herat built by Alexander of Macedonia in the 4th century B.C. Kevin provides contemporary photographs for comparison…

And Max finds these fantastic photographs by Robert Lankenau; the first is a detail to correspond to the rug images. Max observes that the rugs may well be the result of a proto-cubist re-arrangement of all the features of the citadel and its surrounds.




Tehran “war rug”

May 19, 2006


Here is an image with many “war rug” characteristics (the frame of military vehicles, helicopters, jet planes buzzing the mosques) but its primary motif is the monument in Azadi Square in Tehran. The text on the image below is more ambiguous: Hossein Valamanesh thinks it may read “pool of water” (phonetically Hoz Ab) but does not recognise the reference.


The Farsi text on the left of the monument reads “Azardi”, and on the right, “Tehran” and above “Afghanistan Tehran”. “HEB” does not ring any bells…


If this is Azadi Square, then this is its most recent manifestation:


Zooming out to reveal its context:


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a press conference in front of a very complex image, to say the least. Clearly a monument’s symbolic value can be appropriated by whoever is calling the shots. See its origins below. Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 29-30 April, 2006, p13. “Tehran says it will ignore UN on nuclear program” by William Broad and Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Reuters. Image credit Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazi.


Image courtesy

And from Wikipedia:

Azadi Square (میدانِ آزادی). Called Shahyaad (شاه یاد), (Translation: “Remembrance of the Shahs (Kings)”) Square before the Iranian revolution, is a very famous square in Tehran, the capital of Iran. Currently it is called “Meydane-Azadi” (Translation: “Azadi (Freedom) Square”) in Persian, being the place where demonstrations leading to the Iranian Revolution on 12 December 1978 took place. This building is a symbol of Iran’s pre-Islamic Sassanid architecture, with the combination of a post-Islamic theme. The Shahyad tower was originally built under the rule of the late Shah, and completed in 1971 in commemoration of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. The architect of the structure is a Bahai by the name Mohandes Hossein Amanat.

Portrait rug 9: Kenan Evren

May 17, 2006


thanks to

Kenan Evren was the President of Turkey from 1982 – 1989.

Portrait rug 8: Colonel Gaddafi

May 17, 2006


thanks to The text reads “God is Great” (above) and in arabic, Colonel Gaddafi – God look after him – my gift is not worthy…

Attack on the Pentagon

May 9, 2006


This is a rug sourced from Peshawar in 2004. How this may be interpreted involves accepting a high degree of ambiguity – is it threatening? is it celebratory? is the representation of the Pentagon as synonymous with the computer screen significant? Is the Pentagon to be equated with the internet, or with Big Brother? Some of our readers have commented on the lack of an overt political position in the war rug tradition… are there examples we’re missing?

Robert Fyke draws attention to a variant on this rug (ground colours reversed) illustrated in an online essay about the symbolism inherent in the continuity of carpet-weaving (with comments about the identity of the Baluch): the author is Hwaa Irfan, “Weaving between Wars and Returning to the Soul” on He writes:

What happens when violence becomes a way of life, particularly as when imposed by occupying forces? What happens in places such as Afghanistan, which was a war game for the British in the 19th century, the Russians in the 20th century, and the US in this, the 21st century?

Individual’s coping mechanisms are determined by cultural resilience and how thorough the occupation force is at denying the indigenous people the right to be who they are. Different people express these problems in different ways, often making pathological imbalances appear socially acceptable, such as in the process of weaving where the abstract produces a kind of beauty.

A variation to the Gower kelims?

May 7, 2006


Compare this with similar works from the Gower collection.
(Please note: I’ll verify the colours as soon as I can.)