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Persian rugs history: A brief timescale

Posted on 30 June 2015
Interested in Persian rugs history? No doubt, it’s an interesting subject, but also fairly complex.
That’s because the ancient weaving industry is punctuated by many different episodes and developments.
The story is also rather fragmented because carpets deteriorate through time due to their natural composition. A lack of physical evidence means we have to rely on miniatures and written texts to discover more about the striking relevance of rugs from Persia.

In brief: Persian rugs history
Persian rugs are a centrepiece of Iranian culture. It is estimated that rugs were woven in Persia 2,500 years ago. The weaving industry is believed to have been started by Cyrus the Great, who established the Persian Empire in the 529 B.C.
The weaving industry is believed to have been started by Cyrus the Great, who established the Persian Empire in the 529 B.C.
persian rugs history

Cyrus is said to have brought the weaving art to Persia from the East, and that his tomb was filled with magnificent rugs. However, there are signs that the weaving art was already practised by Nomadic tribes long before Cyrus.

After Cyrus, Persia was invaded and dominated by different peoples, including: Arabs, Turks and Mongols.
Even though the carpet industry was not very fervent, the different influences certainly contributed to the distinctive style of Persian rugs, which became fashionable items from the Safavid Dynasty onwards.
persian rugs history
The cultural significance of weaving peaked during the Safavid Dynasty (1499-1722), when it was transformed into a thriving commercial activity.
Particularly remarkable is the period of ruler Shah Abbas (1587 - 1629), who transformed the city Esfahan into a trade centre for rugs. There, people from all over the world came to buy and admire beautiful hand-knotted rugs.
 persian rug history
One of the more splendid examples of rugs from the Safavid Dynasty is the Ardabil carpet, which is also one of the biggest carpets in the world. The huge Ardabil carpet was divided into two parts, one of which is on display at the Victoria & Albert museum in London.
 persian rugs history
During the Safavid Dynasty the weaving art was very important, and rugs were exported all over the world. As a result, rug production became central to the economy of the country.
The rugs were extremely precious, not only because of the materials used such as silk, but also because of the complimentary thread. Silver and gold threads were used for the most expensive commissions.
The development and the fundamental role played by the carpet industry stopped when Afghans conquered Persia in 1722. They also destroyed Esfahan.
In 1736 a young man from Khorasan became the Shah of Persia, Nader Shah Afshar, but at that time the weaving industry was not his main concern. Indeed, every effort at that time was spent on defending the country from the attacks of Afghans, Turks and Russians.
persian rugs history 
Because of the conflicts no memorable carpets were woven up to 1747.
Afterwards the weaving industry steadily reacquired its importance. Nowadays Iran is the world’s biggest producer of handmade rugs. Most of them are exported.

Persian rugs history and use
Rugs have different uses and these change according to the country, the historical period and the population.
For example, in tribes rugs are used as clothing, tents, bags, saddles and so on.
Among the upper classes rugs are a way to show off power and wealth.
In addition, rugs are widely used as prayer mats, giving them a religious dimension.

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