About Luri Rugs
The Luri are an historically nomadic peoples, now mostly living in villages and/or semi-nomadic, residing in the western side of Iran. Linguistically, they are a Persian-speaking people, speaking the Mamasani, Kohgiluyeh, Bakhtiari, and Lur Proper dialects. Some scholars believe that the Lurs were some of the earliest, now current, inhabitants of what is now Iran. Their likely ancestors were the “proto-Lur” Elamites, noted in the Old Testament, then living near and along the coastline of the Persian Gulf. The Lurs are linguistically and culturally related to the Kurds, with a linguistic divergence of the two populations of about a thousand years, or less. Many Lurs historically were nomadic, and some remain so. But many live now as small-scale farmers, and semi-nomadic herders. Among their skills is a history of weaving technologies, both fabrics and carpets/rugs. The Kurdish and Luri speakers represent the oldest of the Iranian Persian speakers - the western reach of the Indo-Iranian-Europeans, the “Aryans”.
The Lurs occupy essentially the entire western part of Iran, from the Persian Gulf, northward into the Caucasus. Their “latch-hook” motif, and the use of rectangular, diamond-shaped and other geometric medallions, often are found among other weaving peoples, likely evidence of Luri influence. The ancient Elamites were also known for the crafting of metal, both bronze and iron. Thousands of metal objects, utilized for bridling and training horses, have been found in archaeological sites. These objects were decorated with animal and bird images, and perhaps influenced and inspired the art of the Scythians, other ancestral peoples of modern Iran.
The Luri carpet industry is associated with different carpet trading centers in Iran, including Shiraz, Behbehan, Khorramabad, Nasrabad, and Shiraz.
The city of Shiraz serves as the market center for most of the carpets and rugs produced by tribal, and many nomadic, peoples of the Province of Fars. These occupy the region between the Persian Gulf, and the southern reaches of the Zagros Mountains. Carpets/rugs of this area come in a wide range of bright colors, their warps are usually of shiny black goats hair, and they are usually found in a standard 8’3” by 5’3” size.
Moving northwest of Shiraz, through the Zagros Mountains, takes you to the next major carpet center, Behbenan. The carpets in this area are “gloomier” than those of the Shiraz Luris. They are found in shades of dark red, and badly dyed blues (often grey-black in appearance). A bright orange is frequently employed, as well. These rugs are coarse, long & narrow, and thick.
Moving further northwest through the Zagros Mountains, takes one to Khorramabad. The carpet and rug products of this market area are easily recognizable. They include “wide” dozars, in a 6’3”-6’6” by 4’6”-5’ size. These have cotton warps, and dark, somber colors – black, brown or grey. Even the wefts are of a dark color, and the result is that the back of these rugs are distinctively dark. They are colored mauve, dark black-blue, and orange. They represent a bolder and clumsier design than other Luris. The utilize a dominant medallion, and are “thick, shaggy, hard-wearing, and cheap”. They do have many designs, and exhibit a clear Kurdish influence on their productions.
The most easterly of the Luris are in Nasrabad, just south of Esfahan, on the edge of the desert. This market presents the most exclusive of the Luris rugs/carpets, although the output is small. These are distinctive and quite popular. They are, however, only produced in rugs and runners, usually with Luri medallions. The colors are notably bright and harmonious, with light red, and predominantly beige/camel shades. The construction is coarse, fairly tightly packed, and robust. Warps are usually of goat hair, but cotton warps are also found.
Shiraz is one of the most important of the Luri rug/carpet market centers, and it is the major market for all of the Fars Province. There are many villages and peoples involved in this market, representing many styles and designs. Many of the designs utilize a medallion, a repeating medallion, or an over-all style. All of the designs are of tribal origin, whether from truly nomadic peoples, semi-nomadic, or villagers. Among these, too, there is racial and linguistic diversity. There are the Turkish[w1] speaking Qashqai; Farsi Persian speaking Luris, Arabs, and the Farsi-speaking members of the Khamseh Confederation, and other small groups of Persian and Turkish dialects and origins. It is a region with complexity, derived from its peoples with different languages, culture, and history. And also, a mix of current life-styles and living strategies, living within a region with difficulties of accessibility and mobility. Many in the region remain true nomads, traveling to the lowlands south of Shiraz for the winter, then northward into the Zagros Mountains for the spring and summer, with their herds of sheep.
There are many other communities and pockets of Luri influence in Iran. Owlad is located east of Khorramabad, and is known for producing a superior rug. Notably, is Naghun, located on the on the southwestern edge of the Bakhtiari Province. The color of these rugs is often described as gloomy, including the dominant darks reds and blues. But, they also utilize some white, light blue, and gold. The colors themselves seem to improve with the aging of these rugs, and sometimes even a good washing improves the appearance. These caroets contain finely detailed geometric designs, which can be quite attractive. Warps are constructed of white cotton or of black/brown goat hair. Wefts are often of red cotton. The wool is fine and “silky”. These are attractive carpets. Most of the production is in carpet sizes, of 4 square meters to 7 square meters in area.
Yalameh lies further east of Owlad. It is a region that is clearly Luri, but has more connection to the Turkish-speaking Qashqai. The designs are “busy” and are considered the most flamboyant of all Luris. They are made in very bright colors, especially light reds, medium blues, and verdant greens. Most of these rugs/carpets end up in the Isfahan market. They feature the Luri “diamond medallion”, with the typical latch-hook motif. Sometimes they exhibit a 2-3 medallion arrangement, and sometimes even a Bakhtiari-like panel design. Yalamehs have a very fine weave, are quite expensive, and are all-wool, with a high knot density, and a silky pile.
Gebbeh represents a style of carpet or rug, which is made by most of the tribes of the Fars Province. Most of these are made with natural colors of wool. Gebbeh are described as “primitive” and “spontaneous” and quite interesting productions, usually made in a long 6’6” to 7’6” by 3’3” to 4’ size. They are usually very uncluttered and open, with intermittent motifs, frequently of animals. They are not symmetric in design, but are artistically satisfying to many.
Qashqai peoples are not Luris, but a Turkish speaking nomadic and small-village or semi-nomadic people. They are prominent in the Lurs area, and their rugs are quite good. The origins of the Qashqai is unclear, but they may have been amongst the Turkic peoples allied and attached to the Mongol - Ghengis Khan, or Timur - in the 13th century, as they invaded Iran from the east. Ghengis Khan famously laid siege to Herat, successfully, in western Afghanistan, on his way westward. Qashqai largely occupy a 300 square mile area, from the southern edge of Chahar Mahal to near the Persian Gulf. Some of these Turkic rugs bear resemblance to rugs as distant as the Caucasus. Qashqai are similar to old Shirvans, and many bear reference to “dragon” and animal motifs of earlier Turkoman and Caucasus weavers. There are many animal and plant representations throughout the Province of Fars. Abadeh, largely occupied by settled Qashqai, contains borders and other carpet features, which reflect weaving from as remote as Herat.
Pockets of Luri and Luri influence exist in many areas of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, and the Dosemeatli of Anatolia. Even the small town of Veramin, near Tehran, contains many Luri and Kurdish elements in their weaving design. Red is frequently used to produce fine tight weave, with silky wool, using cotton warps and wefts.
The Luri peoples, and related tribes, survive in a harsh environment of mountains and desert, but continue to preserve and execute their art in the steadfastness of their rug industries. - William Clymer III.