The Gol
Unlike every other type of oriental rug, those from Turkmenistan are perhaps the most easily identified and outwardly homogenous on account of their typical grid format and reliance on rows of medallions placed within that grid.


Composed of larger (major) and smaller (minor) medallions that were carefully and exactly placed on that grid, these gol were then surrounded by several (usually) three border stripes -- a broader main one with, more often than not, two identical flanking minor or guard borders.

These medallions are called gol or gul, with both terms now being generally recognized as interchangeable. This is our position though other authors still seem to believe one or the other is the correct one to use. Supposedly both are derived from the Persian language -- gul denoting flower and gol denoting a pool or lake but to eliminate confusion we prefer gol rather than gul.

Frankly, this author has little faith in the still quite prevalent notion the gol found on historic Turkmen pile rugs have anything to do with flowers or lakes, as this concept has always appeared far to general to explain the many distinct but subtle variations that can be identified when archaic examples are studied and compared.


In fact this author’s disbelief in this and other ‘myths’ has contributed to our now three decade search to far better understand the Turkmen weaver’s faithful reliance on what we have named the gird-gol format, and the gol itself.

This long search has gone down a number of dead-end and blind alley with no real breakthrough coming until much of the research presented here was uncovered. But before this source material is presented let’s look a bit more at this grid-gol format and some related issues.

The Grid-Gol Format

Often at the top and bottom of larger examples, called main rugs, an additional panel, called an elem, will invariably be found.

illustration 1

It is not surprising these elem also follow a grid-gol format by arranging the elements in staggered rows. And even though they are limited to only one design, and not the major and minor ones seen in the rug’s field, elem well mimic this layout.

Elem are also used on many smaller Turkmen weavings, called chuval, torba and mafrash depending on their size, that are believed to have served as storage bags or containers.

illustration 2

In common with main carpets, these weavings also almost always display a grid-gol format of major and minor gol in their field. However, unlike the typical historic main carpet, almost all historic smaller storage bags have only one elem, located at the bottom of the weaving under the lower borders. Although atypically, some of these weavings have added panels at the sides and top where small elem-style motif are also included.

illustration 3

While this description might imply the grid-gol format is stiff and rigid, it is surprising and remarkable this is not the case. When historic Turkmen pile weavings are viewed in person, whether main carpet or smaller storage bag, there is a noticeable dynamic interplay and three-dimensional interaction of the design elements. This visual magic, manifested by the use of carefully delineated proportions, exact design articulation and clever use of color variation is, perhaps more than any other single aspect, one all historic Turkmen pile weaving demonstrate.


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