For a Turkmen, carpet making has the same importance as the pyramids do for Egypt. It is one of the oldest arts in Turkmenistan and the region.
Archeological data places carpet making on the territory of Turkmenistan as early as the 6th century B.C. The remains of a carpet which archeologists found in the 1940's at Altai is two-thousand five hundred years old. Research shows that the design is very similar to the carpets of today.
It took centuries for these designs to develop, and the decoration of the carpets is extremely original, reflecting stylized articles of the real world surrounding nomadic livestock-breeders. Ornaments are geometric, and love of deep, rich red is an artistic tradition of the carpets.
The art of carpet weaving was passed from generation to generation and today one can single out several types of Turkmen carpets, each having individual ornamentation. The five traditional designs form part of the country's state emblem and flag.
For Turkmen nomads, the carpets were extremly important, covering wagon floors and forming collapsible walls, protecting them from the cold.
Turkmen carpets have centuries-old history. They are mentioned in Zoroastrian Avesta, in works of Homer and Gerodot, in ancient Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, in Shahnameh by Firdousi, in One thousand and one nights, and other ancient and medieval writings. Italian traveler Marco Polo referred to Turkmen carpets as the most thin and beautiful. Turkmen carpets have been also represented in pictures of the Italian Renaissance artists.
In 2001, Turkmen carpet masters have weaven a giant carpet, with the area of 301 sq. m and weight of 1,200 kg. It is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest handmade carpet in the world
The Turkmen carpets, whose prevailing color is dark red, are woven from wool, cotton and silk at home. The legend says that the "covenants" left by Oguz Khan (a legendary ancestor of the Turkmen) to his sons are incorporated in the ghels (patterns) of a Turkmen carpet. In Turkmenistan where each tribe had its peculiar ornament, the carpet is so sacred, that even the national flag carpet ornaments on it. A real carpet a work of art in itself and is very expensive.
In the 3rd century B.C. Parthian carpets were extensively exported to ancient Europe and appreciated by Roman emperors. By the 13th century there appeared written evidence about Turkmen carpets. The famous traveler Marko Polo who visited Minor Asia enthusiastically wrote about Turkmen carpets as being "the thinnest finest in the world".
Each Turkmen oasis had its unique pattern. But all of them, despite the differences, have common background, common semantics - all that makes up a Turkmen carpet!