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Early Carpet Making History

Prehistoric man probably threw animal skins on cave floors to ward off the chill, and invented carpeting.  There is evidence that around 6000 BC, residents of central Asia were shearing goats and sheep, spin the fleece into thread, and weaving rustic carpets.  By 1480 BC, the Egyptians had crafted handlooms for weaving, as demonstrated in frescoes.  The oldest surviving carpet fragment is dated from 464 BC, and is called the Pazyryk Carpet.  It was discovered frozen in ice in Outer Mongolia, and most likely was made by Persian Achaemenids or Scythians.  By 1000 AD, Marco Polo notes that rug making was being performed in central Asia.

Perhaps some of the best known oriental carpets originate in Iran.  Persian carpet weaving dates back to the Bronze Age, and the oldest surviving Persian carpets are from the 16th century.  Iran is the largest producer and exporter of hand made carpets.  Persian carpets often show vines or clouds, but very rarely show animals or humans.  Most are made of wool, but occasionally silk is used.

Turkish carpets are known for their brilliant colors and patterns.  They are generally knotted or flat woven rugs, and are made of wool or cotton.  Very seldom, silk is also added into the weaving process.

Oriental carpets began to appear in Europe after the Crusades in the 11th century.  They were prominently displayed on tables or as wall hangings, as they were considered too valuable to put on the floor.  However, royalty and bishops used oriental carpets as floor coverings.

By the early 10th century, Spain was producing carpets.  Spanish carpets exhibited geometric patterns with blazons of noble families.  Spanish carpets are often known for their patterns featuring wreaths and pomegranates.

By the 16th century, England was producing knotted pile carpet weaving.  The first factory was established in 1655 at Wilton.  English carpets exhibited a symmetrical knotting method, which most other European carpets did not.  Southeastern England became known for their carpet industry.

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