The Oldest Persian Carpet in the World

What is the oldest known knotted - and still mostly intact - Persian carpet in the world? Where was it discovered and what does this mean to those interested as to Persian carpets overall?

The Worlds Oldest Persian carpet

The carpet was discovered during an archaeological excavation from the grave of a Scythian nobleman in 1949 in the Pazyryk Valley in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. Radiocarbon testing showed that it was woven 2,400 – 2,500 years ago. So it is considered to be the oldest known Oriental rug.

The carpet is so well preserved due to the layer of ice and permafrost which appeared in the tomb.

The advanced technique used in the Pazyryk carpet displays a very high level of skill and intricacy. It is 183 by 200 centimeters and has 36 knots per square centimeter, many of the modern rags have a lower density of knots. The carpet pile is only 2 mm thick.

The design of the carpet already shows the basic arrangement of what was to become the standard oriental carpet design.

It was discovered in the grave of the prince of Altai near Pazyryk, 5400 feet above sea level, and clearly shows how well hand-knotted rugs were produced thousands of years ago. Radiocarbon testing revealed that the Pazyryk carpet was woven in the 5th century B.C., thus approximately 2500 years old. The advanced weaving techniques and the sophisticated design and construction, used in this rug, suggest the art of carpet weaving to go back much further than the 5th century B.C. to be at least 4000 years old. Today the rug is in the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad, Russia.

When the prince of Altai died, he was buried in a grave mound with many of his prized possessions, including the Pazryk Carpet. Unfortunately, soon after, the grave mound was robbed of its prized possessions, with the exception of the rug. The rug was semi-frozen because the thieves did not bother to cover up the hole they had dug to retrieve the items, rendering the hole exposed to the elements within the tomb. The combination of low temperature and precipitation within the tomb subsequently froze the carpet, and preserved it in a thick sheet of ice, protecting it for twenty-five centuries. This somewhat ironic story is the reason that the Pazyryk rug still exists today.

Below: Detail of Pazyryk border, showing great technical skill and a sophisticated design

Although it was found in a Scjythian burial-mound, most experts attribute the Pazyryk rug to Persia. Its design is in the same style as the sculptures of Persepolis, The outer of the two principal border bands is decorated with a line of horsemen: seven on each side, twenty-eight in number - a figure which corresponds to the number of males who carried the throne of Xerxes to Perspolis. Some are mounted, while others walk beside their horses. In the inner principal band there is a line of six elks on each side.

The Oldest Persian Carpet in the World - The Pazyryk carpet

The Oldest Persian Carpet in the World - The Pazyryk carpet - 183 by 200 centimeters and has 36 kpi with a carpet pile only 2 mm thick. The advanced technique used in the Pazyryk carpet displays a very high level of skill and intricacy.