Anatolian Rug | History | Kinds | How to Choose

Anatolian rug, with their rich history and unique designs, are a testament to the artistic prowess and cultural heritage of Turkey. These handcrafted masterpieces have evolved over centuries, reflecting the influences of various eras, from the Seljuks to the Ottomans.

Whether adorned with geometric patterns from the early Yörük period or the floral motifs of the classical Ottoman era, each rug tells a story. These rugs are not just decorative pieces but are symbolic representations of Anatolian life, culture, and history.

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The History of Anatolian Rug

Anatolian rugs are historically divided into two categories:

  • Early Period Yörük Rugs: Decorated with geometric patterns and nature illustrations.
  • Classical Ottoman Period Rugs: Adorned with floral motifs and medallion emblems.

Central Asian Rugs:

Interestingly, the world’s oldest and most durable rug was discovered in Central Asia’s ‘Pazırık Kurgans’ burial sites. This rug, dating back to 5th-3rd centuries BC, is of significant importance as it showcases the knotting technique. While there were rugs before the Central Asian Turks, they lacked the knotting technique, making the Pazırık Rug a significant discovery.

The Seljuks Era:

Great Seljuks

Although ancient sources often praise the exquisite Seljuk rugs, unfortunately, no confirmed samples from the Great Seljuks era have survived. It’s believed that these valuable textiles were destroyed during the Mongol invasion. However, miniatures from the 13th-15th centuries depict rugs, providing a glimpse into their designs.

Anatolian Seljuks

The Seljuk rugs in Anatolia were foundational in terms of motifs, colors, techniques, and compositions. They predominantly used the Gördes knot and wool as the primary material.

The Beyliks Era

After the Anatolian Seljuks, the “Beyliks period” continued the tradition of rug-making. These rugs are often decorated with animal figures, leading to their nickname “Animal Figure Anatolian Rugs”. Notable examples include the “Rooster Rug” in Konya Ethnography Museum and the “Marby Rug” found in a church in Marby, Sweden.

Ottoman Era

Ottoman palace rugs were woven by the Ehli Hiref organization. They utilized luxurious materials like silk, wool, and gold. Initially influenced by Persian designs, these rugs eventually evolved to showcase more Anatolian features. The 16th century marked the golden era for Anatolian rugs, with mosques and palaces demanding vast quantities. The designs mirrored the architectural advancements of the Ottoman Empire.

Hereke Rugs

In the 1850s, Sultan Abdülmecid desired the finest rugs for his new Dolmabahçe Palace. This demand led to the establishment of large carpet workshops in the town of Hereke. These rugs, renowned worldwide, were showcased in various international exhibitions, winning accolades for their quality and craftsmanship.

Modernization and Modern Era

Since the 19th century, as weaving moved from homes to workshops and factories, traditional techniques began to fade. Modern weavers often found themselves distanced from traditional Turkish motifs.

The 1970s marked the rise of machine-made rugs, slowly overshadowing hand-woven ones. The allure of cheaper, readily available machine-made rugs led to a decline in the traditional art of rug-making.

Despite the challenges faced by the rug industry, kilims, owing to their traditional nature, have managed to retain their original character. However, with the increasing preference for machine-made products in households, even kilims might face a similar fate as rugs in the future.

Features of the Anatolian Rugs

Anatolian rugs are crafted on handloom machines. Their dimensions can vary significantly, leading to some rugs taking years to weave. Although a rug is typically the work of a single individual, larger rugs can be crafted by two people.

The motifs found on Anatolian rugs are not standardized. They are shaped based on the desires of the weaver, often representing an event, object, or emotion that the weaver wants to depict or convey.

When coloring Turkish rugs post-weaving, natural dyes are used, ensuring the absence of synthetic materials. These natural dyes, derived from various plants, imbue the colors with rich meanings.

Motifs and Symbols on the Anatolian Rug and Their Meanings

Each motif on an Anatolian rug conveys a specific meaning, giving the rug its unique character. For instance, scorpion motifs are symbols of evil or underworld forces. They also represent illness, pain, and sorrow, but at the same time, they symbolize pride and freedom.

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Contrasting elements like sea-wave, mountain-valley, and male-female signify movement, fertility, and marriage. Hand and finger motifs are believed to be sacred, bringing good fortune and possessing healing properties. Birds represent the soul of the deceased, as well as women, happiness, and joy.

In essence, every motif on a Anatolian rug carries a distinct meaning and significance.

How are Anatolian Rugs Made?

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Anatolian rugs are among the world’s most intricate and beautiful weavings. Despite their long and complex history, the fundamental process of making a Anatolian rug has remained relatively unchanged for centuries. Here’s a brief overview of how Anatolian rugs are crafted.

Initially, raw wool or cotton is dyed using natural colors. Once dyed, it’s spun into threads and wound onto spools. Weavers then use a shuttle to weave the thread onto the rug’s foundation.

Turkish rugs are handcrafted by skilled artisans using traditional methods passed down through generations. The wool is colored with natural dyes and then hand-knotted onto a cotton base. Crafting a traditional Anatolian rug can sometimes take up to two years.

There’s a wide variety of Anatolian rug types, ranging from classic Anatolian designs to more contemporary geometric patterns. Each region in Turkey boasts its own unique rug style.

One of the most popular types of Turkish kilims is characterized by its flat-weave design. Kilims are typically made of wool or cotton and often feature vibrant geometric patterns. Another type is the Gördes kilim, which showcases traditional Anatolian patterns. Gördes kilims are usually crafted from wool and display vivid floral or geometric patterns.

Turkish Rug Motifs and Their Meanings

1. Scorpion Motif

  • Symbolizes: The demonic spirit, representing malicious intent and conflict.
  • Usage: Woven to ward off harmful creatures.
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2. Plus and Hook Motif

  • Symbolizes: Protection from harm, unrelated to the Christian cross symbol.

3. Fertility Motif

  • Categories:
    • Fruits like pomegranates and figs, and animals like dragons and fish, symbolizing endless happiness.
    • Leaves, flowers, and tree motifs representing abundance and luck.
    • Natural elements like water and mountains depicting the universe, life, death, and rebirth.

4. Bukağı Motif

  • Symbolizes: Love, unity, and family stability. Inspired by a chain used to tether horses.

5. Dragon Motif

  • Symbolizes: Master of air and water, protector of treasures, and a sign of abundant spring rain.
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6. Hands-on-Hips Motif

  • Symbolizes: Femininity, fertility, happiness, and prosperity. Originated from ancient goddess worship.

7. Eye Motif

  • Symbolizes: Protection from the evil eye, deep perception, and spiritual enlightenment. Often in blue.

8. Tree of Life Motif

  • Symbolizes: The ever-evolving universe, eternity, and the connection between heaven and earth.

9. Stamp and Seal Motifs

  • Symbolizes: Identity and existence of tribes, clans, and communities.
  • Usage: Represents family heritage, valuable possessions, and the passing of cultural knowledge.

10. Human Motif

  • Symbolizes: Longing or yearning. Sometimes represents a loved one or the desire for children. It also stands for creativity and industriousness.

11. Eagle Motif

  • Symbolizes: Sky dominion, a harbinger of the future, and a sacred messenger. Represents agility and strength.

12. Ram’s Horn Motif

  • Symbolizes: Masculinity, strength, and heroism.
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13. Wolf Mouth, Wolf Track, Monster Foot

  • Symbolizes: Optimism and protection. The Anatolian people believed in protecting their herds from wolves.

14. Bird Motif

  • Symbolizes: Sometimes the soul of someone passed away, or love, women, and desire.

15. Earring Motif

  • Symbolizes: A young woman’s desire to marry. Represents love and sensuality.

16. Amulet Motif

  • Symbolizes: Protection from the evil eye.

17. Pıtrak Motif

  • Symbolizes: Protection from the evil eye. Inspired by a thorny field plant believed to keep away the evil eye.

18. Hair Tie Motif

  • Symbolizes: Immortality. Expresses a desire for lifelong love and companionship.

19. Chest Motif

  • Symbolizes: A young person’s readiness for marriage, representing their dowry chest.

20. Waterway Motif

  • Symbolizes: Life, vitality, purity, renewal, wisdom, and nobility.

21. Comb, Finger, and Hand Motifs

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  • Symbolizes: Human creativity and the power of creation.

22. Snake Motif

  • Symbolizes: Power and immortality. The double-headed snake also represents medicine and the duality of poison and antidote.

23. Star Motif

Symbolizes: Hard work and productivity.

Anatolian Rug Kinds

1. Taşpınar Rugs

  • Geometric Designs: A prominent feature of these rugs, giving them a unique and recognizable pattern.
  • Materials: Sourced locally, these rugs predominantly utilize wool from sheep raised in the surrounding regions.
  • Aksaray: A central hub for the renowned Taşpınar rug models, reflecting a profound history in the realm of rug-making.

2. Yahyalı Rugs

  • Composition: Made entirely from wool, these rugs are both durable and aesthetically pleasing.
  • Colors: Natural dyes are used to give these rugs their vibrant hues, ensuring longevity without any fading.
  • Characteristics: The number of knots and weaving techniques differ, showcasing the versatility of Yahyalı rugs.

3. Yağcıbedir Rugs

  • Design: Boasting of simple colors with intricate motifs, these rugs are a visual treat.
  • Cultural Significance: The motifs often carry deeper meanings, rooted in the region’s traditional culture.
  • Production: Made using wool, these rugs undergo a natural dyeing process, ensuring their authentic feel.

4. Hereke Rugs

  • Technique: Known for their double knot technique, setting them apart from other rug varieties.
  • Material: Crafted using top-grade silk and wool, ensuring their premium quality.
  • Handmade: These rugs are entirely handmade, a process that can span years, making them among the world’s finest.

5. Milas Rugs

  • Colors: Predominantly in shades of red and yellow, these rugs use up to 26 known colors.
  • Natural Dyes: Derived from nature, colors are extracted using organic methods from various plants.
  • Weaving: Historically woven on looms known as “ıstar,” they continue to be crafted in the same traditional manner.

Distinguishing Handwoven and Machine-made Rugs

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The easiest way to distinguish between a handwoven and machine-made rug is by examining the knots on its underside. Handwoven rugs are crafted with individual knots for each thread. In contrast, machine-made rugs lack these knots due to automated weaving. If you observe straight, ribbon-like knot traces, you’re likely looking at a machine-made rug. However, if the knots appear uneven and distinct, you have a handwoven masterpiece.


Another telling sign is the rug’s design. Machine-woven rugs display perfectly symmetrical and regular patterns, a result of pre-set machine designs. On the other hand, even the most skilled artisan cannot achieve complete symmetry. Thus, slight variations in handwoven rug patterns indicate their authenticity.

How to Use Anatolian Rug

  1. Avoid keeping your carpet in the same position all the time. At least twice a year, rotate its direction to ensure even wear on all sides.
  2. Do not expose your carpet to direct sunlight for extended periods. Always keep it away from extremely hot and humid environments.
  3. Ensure the legs of furniture placed on your carpet are not sharp. If necessary, place felt or a pad between the carpet and sharp furniture legs to prevent damage.
  4. If you notice any unraveling knots on the sides or ends of your carpet, get them repaired immediately.
  5. If you’re not planning to use the carpet, store it with mothballs, roll it with a cloth, and keep it in a dry place.
  6. Occasionally, turn your carpet upside down for a while to allow settled dust to fall off.

How to Clean Anatolian Rug

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  1. When vacuuming, move in parallel and slow motions in the direction of the carpet’s pile.
  2. There’s no need to beat or shake a carpet that’s regularly cleaned with a vacuum.
  3. For routine cleaning, at least once a year, gently scrub the surface with a mixture of soapy water and a bit of vinegar. Avoid harmful chemicals.
  4. Brush your Anatolian Rug at least once a year with a stiff brush or broom.
  5. If your carpet gets stained, immediately blot the stain without rubbing. Remove solid parts gently and rinse later. Always choose stain removers from reputable brands with clear ingredients.
  6. For a complete wash, entrust your carpet to a trusted professional carpet cleaner.

How to Store Anatolian Rug

Handwoven Anatolian Rugs are a favorite addition to living spaces. While using them is essential, storing them correctly is equally crucial to ensure their longevity. Before storing, always ensure the carpet is wiped and swept clean. Additionally, using a soft brush, remove any accumulated hair and lint from the surface. Instead of folding, which can harm the carpet over time, roll it up. This method prevents deformation. Storing in extreme heat or cold can damage the carpet’s structure, so it’s best to keep it at room temperature.

For long-term storage of decorative items like carpets, mothballing is a common practice. By placing mothballs near or with the rolled carpet, it prevents decay and gives a pleasant scent. Even when stored correctly, it’s beneficial to periodically air out the carpet. Allowing the carpet’s natural fibers to breathe helps in preventing deformation.

How Much do Anatolian Rug Costs?

The prices of handwoven carpets vary based on the type of yarn used, knot density, design, and even color. Therefore, before purchasing, it’s beneficial to compare models from different companies. The cost per square meter for handwoven carpets is determined by the area where it will be used.

For instance, the prices for handwoven Bünyan carpets differ from those of Uşak wool handwoven carpets, and they are presented based on predefined sizes. Prices for Manisa Demirci handwoven carpets can also vary based on the design pattern used.

Antique handwoven wool carpet prices are generally considered more affordable than regular handwoven carpets, but this can vary between brands.

Hatice Kulali
Hatice Kulali

Hello! I'm Hatice Kulalı, a proud Turkish citizen of Kutahya Gediz and a pharmacist. I love my country a lot, its rich culture, outstanding hospitality, and unique traditions. I am happy to share the beauty of Turkey with you, Happy reading!

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