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The History of Oriental Rugs - RugArt

Oriental rugs refer to hand-knotted rugs made in Asia. Their beautiful patterns, vivid colours and exquisite knotting make them a firm favourite across the world. In this blog, we take you through the fascinating history of Oriental rugs.

What are Oriental rugs and where did they originate?

Oriental rugs are carpets hand-knotted in Asia including China, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. Persian rugs are a type of Oriental rug that originate in Iran (formerly Persia). The oldest surviving Oriental rug was a Persian rug found in ancient Persia (modern dated Iran) and it dated back to the year 500 B.C. It’s believed that hand-knotted carpets likely existed hundreds of years prior to this in the areas now known as Azerbaijan and Turkey but due to the nature of carpets, they deteriorate and become destroyed over time. The first documented evidence of Oriental carpets comes from Chinese texts that date back to the Sassanid period of 224-641 CE. Historical records also show that the Achaemenian court of Cyprus the Great at Pasargadae was covered in magnificent carpets in Oriental style over 2500 years ago.

The earliest surviving Oriental rug

As we mentioned, the oldest known Oriental rug to be discovered was from 500 B.C. This rug was found almost completely preserved in the late 1940s by the Russian archaeologist Sergei Rudenko and his team. The rug was part of the grave gifts preserved frozen in the ice Scythian burial mounds of the Pazyryk area in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. The design of this carpet shows the basic arrangement of what was to become the standard oriental carpet design: A field with repeating patterns, framed by a main border in elaborate design, and several secondary borders.

How are Oriental rugs made?

Oriental rugs are woven by hand on a loom, with warps, wefts, and pile made mainly of natural fibres including wool, cotton, and silk. The pile consists of hand-spun strings of yarn, knotted into the warp and weft foundation. The pile threads are dyed and once the weaving has finished, the rug is further processed by fastening its borders, clipping the pile to ensure an even surface and washing. The dyes used in Oriental rugs were completely natural prior to the 1870s derived from plants and insects. Synthetic dyes have largely replaced natural dyes but there is much debate around which dye produces a better rug with the argument both for and against natural dyes being they fade with time which produces a more sought after rug but one which will not last the test of time.


The most commonly used knot in Oriental rugs is the Turkish double knot whereby each end of the pile thread is twisted around two warp threads at regular intervals. This means that both ends of the knot come up between two warp strings on one side of the carpet opposite to the knot. The asymmetric or Persian knot is another common knot that is tied by winding a piece of thread around one warp and halfway around the next warp so both ends of the thread come up at the same side of two adjacent strings of warp on one side of the carpet opposite to the knot. Variance in knot types holds significance as the type of knot used often varies between region or tribe. Knot density is an indicator of rug quality. The more knots per square inch, the greater the quality.


Oriental rugs are known for their rich colours and varied designs but all hold common characteristics so they can be identified as Oriental. The more floral the pattern then the more urban the area it was made in while a geometric pattern is more likely to have originated from a tribe. Each family of weavers would place elements special to them within their rugs. Some of the most interesting elements include a ram’s horns for male fertility, a camel for wealth, a stag for long life and a duck for a faithful marriage. Similarly, different colours were used symbolically including red for happiness, brown for fertility and white for peace.

Here at RugArt we are suppliers of some of the very finest quality rugs available in Ireland including a wide range of unique, Oriental rugs. Our showroom is centrally located at 1c, Birch Avenue, Stillorgan Industrial Park, Sandyford and is the ideal space for the presentation of what has been described by the eminent interior journalist Eoin Lyons in his book as “by far the most covetable rugs available in Ireland”.

Contact us on 01 2690505 or email us at to arrange your appointment today.

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