Armenian carpets from the past and the present part 3
The invention of the Armenian alphabet in 406 A.D. marked the beginning of the golden age of Armenian literature. The literature, artwork, and illuminated manuscripts produced during this period shed light on the importance of the role of the carpet in Armenian society as well as the history of oriental rugs in general.
The written histories and heroic tales contain references to the Armenian rug. There are numerous depictions of Armenian carpets in famous illuminated manuscripts and royal and religious miniature paintings made by Armenian artists.
Exaggerated rugs, woven with gold or silver threads, were placed on the thrones and at the feet of Armenian royalty.
Ecclesiastical uses of Armenian rugs
The Armenian Church regarded the Armenian rugs as treasures of the church. Even though prayer rugs are currently associated with Islam, historical records show that Armenian prayer rugs were made by Armenians long before the 7th-century rise of Islam.
To commemorate a special event, such as a royal wedding, or to honour the dead, rugs were woven and placed on coffins during royal funeral processions before being buried with the coffin.
The process of carpet weaving
Although Armenian inscriptions mention male weavers, provincial village women were the essential rug weavers. The rugs were all made of wool, which was easily obtainable in the area.
Cotton was used only for weft threads and edging. According to Arthur T. Gregorian, "Armenian rugs are woven firmly with the nap clipped very low, making the rugs supple and soft." "A great preference is shown for delicate shades of soft blue with touches of green, coral, old gold, and tans." All the patterns are outlined in either natural brown or wool dyed to this shade.
The weavers knew that, over time, this brown colour would fade faster than the other colours; thus, it was used for outlining motifs. This colour was obtained by using iron pyrite in dyeing the wool.