Unraveling the Secrets of the Pazyryk Rug

There’s something about wool that makes it one of the most coveted raw materials for rugs and carpets. It is the secret of the Westex carpets that continue to wow the floors of residential and commercial properties in the UK.

But what is not to love about wool?

  • Wool feels good. It is a natural fiber known for being soft, durable, and resilient. It will not show vacuum or dirt marks as quickly as other materials and is less likely to sustain damage.
  • It is a natural insulator. It can help regulate the temperature in your home. In the winter, it will help keep your feet warm, and in the summer, it will help keep your home cooler.
  • Wool is a renewable resource. You can grow and harvest it without damaging the environment. Wool production helps to improve soil quality and control erosion.
  • Producing it doesn’t harm animals like the sheep. The shearing process of thinning the wool to a specific gauge leaves them free of cuts and scrapes. Shearing is a delicate trim with shears, done once or twice a year after the sheep have shed their winter coat.
  • Wool production supports people. Wool production provides a livelihood for millions of people worldwide, creating thousands of jobs from growing the wool fiber to manufacturing it into finished products.

However, nothing seems to be more revered among the wool carpets than Pazyryk.

What Is the Pazyryk Rug?

Wool carpets have been around since time immemorial. History suggests that the first carpet, made of wool or goat hair, became available as early as 2,000 BC somewhere in the Middle East.

But because history documentation back then was poor, no one knows for sure where the product truly started or how manufacturers achieved the vibrancy and complexity of the design.

That is until someone discovered the Pazyryk rug. This flooring material, now displayed in the Hermitage Museum in Russia, is recognized as the oldest hand-knotted rug globally.

In the 1940s, Sergei Rudenko, a Russian archeologist, discovered the rug in a tomb by a Scythian prince in the Altai Mountains near Serbia’s Pazyryk Valley. The story has it that people buried the royal with his prized possessions, including the carpet, in the mound.

Then, the thieves came and stole most of the valuables, leaving behind the carpet out in the open. As the Siberian mountain was over 5,000 above sea level, the frigid temperature froze the carpet until Rudenko found it.

How Science Revealed More about the Rug

The discovery of the rug provides more information about the history of the Achaemenid Empire and the carpet-making industry over the years.

First, carbon dating revealed that the rug might be around 2,500 years old. It could have been manufactured in the fifth century BC. It only meant that ancient civilizations had been making this product for eons.

Second, despite being incredibly old, the carpet retained its longevity, durability, and color sharpness or vibrancy. A 2021 study that focused on the red sections of the material shared that the reason lies in the unique manufacturing technique.

Using a high-resolution X-ray fluorescence microscopy, the researchers of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg found out that the manufacturers fermented the wool before dyeing it.

Wool fermentation involves wetting the wool and then leaving it in a warm, humid place to encourage the growth of bacteria. The bacteria will break down some of the natural lanolin in the wool, which will make it easier to dye. It also results in a much cleaner fleece for spinning.

Moreover, based on the university study, fermenting the wool allows the colors to diffuse at the center of the material, allowing the shades to be permanent and remain brilliant over the years.

Because the process is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and smelly, some consider other cleaning methods.

Having a Pazyryk in Your Home or Office

There’s only one Pazyryk carpet in history. But it doesn’t mean you cannot have something similar in your home or office.

The best option you have is to buy an oriental rug made of wool. The manufacturers dye the wool before weaving it, and they create multiple wefts and warps simultaneously to ensure that no single thread will break under tension (stress).

You can also consider the pattern on the wool rug or carpet. Many historians believe that the Payzyrk carpet originated from Persia (now Iran), and the details told the story of Xerxes’ trip to Persepolis.

As one of the oldest hand-knotted rugs globally, the Pazyryk carpet is an incredible piece of history that has withstood the test of time. The story of its discovery and the science behind its manufacturing are fascinating, and it’s a must-have for any history or rug fanatic. The good news is you can own something like it with the right flooring company and design choice.

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