Skip to main content

The Oldest Rug in the World: Pazyryk Carpet

The Story Of The Pazyryk Carpet – The Oldest Rug in the World

The land surrounding Siberia’s Ukok Plateau is vast.  Harsh in the winter, the region of Altai Krai is home to the Altai Mountains and the Ob River and her estuaries.  The plateau descends into the Pazyryk Valley, which contains ancient kurgans (burial mounds) in the style of the Scythian peoples who inhabited the area in over two thousand years ago.

Archaeological digs in the area began in the 1920’s and unearthed a wealth of historically important items that offered intriguing insight into the little known ancient nomadic tribes of the Pazyryk.

The Pazyryk Rug - The Oldest rug In The World by Nazmiyal

Image Of The Pazyryk Rug – The Oldest rug In The World

Among the findings were mummies, cloth saddles, a full-sized burial chariot, decorative or devotional figurines, and cannabis seed with an inhalation tent.  When the tombs were unearthed, it was found that they had been remarkably preserved in ice since the 5th century BCE.

The mummies that were found were so complete that they still had their tattooed flesh and hair.

Pazyryk Mummy Of The Ukok Princess the "Siberian Ice Maiden" - Nazmiyal

Pazyryk Mummy Of The Ukok Princess the “Siberian Ice Maiden”

One of the most remarkable finds was the Pazyryk Carpet.  To our knowledge, it is the oldest piled rug still in existence, and is housed at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.  The museum’s website description of this ancient rug is as follows: “Its decoration is rich and varied: the central field is occupied by 24 cross-shaped figures, each of which consists of four stylized lotus buds.  This composition is framed by a border of griffins, followed by a border of twenty-four fallow deer.

The widest border contains representations of workhorses and men.”  What the website does not mention is the ambiguity of the carpet’s origin.  The Pazyryk Valley was located between active trade routes spanning the ancient world, with China to the east and Central Asia to the southwest.  One of the mummies discovered–called the Siberian Ice Maiden–was clothed in a wild silk tunic that likely originated in India.  Some of the figurines were gilded, and gold is not native to the area.

The Pazyryk Carpet most likely came from Central Asia, though it is really a tossup between Persia or Armenia.  Both nations have traditions of carpet weaving spanning thousands of years, and the horses represented on the ancient carpet are nearly identical to horsemen on a frieze in the ancient Persian city of Persepolis.  The possibility that the rug was produced by the Pazyryks is extremely slim, because the sophistication and elegance of the design is indicative of a settled and cosmopolitan civilization unlike the nomadic Pazyryks.

The Oldest Carpet In The World - The Pazyryk

The Oldest Carpet In The World – The Pazyryk

Based on a study of ancient artistic development, textile expert Ulrich Schurmann has reached the conclusion that the rug is of Armenian origin.  The Persians also claim it as their own, believing that it’s an artifact from the Achaemenid Empire.

Pazyryk Valley Ancient Kurgans Burial Mounds - Nazmiyal

Pazyryk Valley Ancient Kurgans (burial mounds)

For now, the exact origin of the Pazyryk Carpet will remain a mystery, but it’s significance and beauty is forever eternal.

This rug blog about the oldest rug in the world – the Pazyryk Carpet, was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs in NYC.

Related News

Persian Tragic Love Story Of Shirin and Khosrow - Nazmiyal

Tragic Persian Love Story: Shirin and Khosrow

We recently acquired a magnificent antique Persian Sarouk rug that depicts the Persian tragic love story...

Albert Karmeli Nazmiyal

Albert Karmely Remembered

It saddens us to inform you that earlier this week, Albert Karmely, one of the...

Josef Hoffman Rugs - Nazmiyal

Austrian Designer Josef Hoffmann Rug

Nazmiyal is pleased to announce the addition of a beautiful Art Deco carpet by Josef Hoffmann...


  1. social anxiety

    I like your rich post. brilliant information. I hope you write many. I will continue watching

  2. Sofia - Winterstays

    That’s amazing. 2000 years later and the style is still not out of date

    1. Anabel@Oriental Rugs

      I agree. This is very amazing. I love the design and it seems like just as this generation style.

  3. Brian

    I’ve seen rugs hundreds of years old but never one thousands of years old.
    Thanks for sharing the pictures and information with us..

  4. Antique Journal

    Thanks for sharing. Two things I like about the post, one it is straight forward and two it does not attempt to promote anyone’s position particularly. Congratulations again on a good job Omri.

  5. Anna

    In Iran everybody nows that rug waving came from Armenia.thank you.

    1. Jg wen

      Majority of people believe the rug is from Persia/Iran area. Only one person believes it's from Armenia. The quality of Iranian rugs still to this day are more expensive and sought after. No one even pays attention to Armenian rugs. The article above even says that the images are Persian.

      1. Elias

        2500 years ago it was the Persian Empire.

  6. graham

    Piled weaving was also in what we now call Peru, invented without any Asian influence. With so many important inventions, they happened in several places.

  7. Devyani p banerji

    I am now the proud owner of a hand knotted Pazyryk rug made of vegetable dyed wool. It was made in India, in the Bhadoi region, by my nephew, Debashish Mukherjee, a manufacturer and exporter of quality hand made carpets.

  8. reyhan

    What a magnificent world treasure! (Personally being from India-the wild silk tunic would be Northern India-Benarsi Silk or Southern Kancheevaram,one would wonder;)

  9. Levent Erdinc

    There is known two major knots in the world #1 Turkish knot #2 Persian knots all the hand made rugs made one of this two knots if you go to Persia north part of the country mostly Turkic peoples 40 million Turkic peoples live in Persia to day name is Iran mostly this Turkic peoples was provide thier living on Oriental Rugs and flatweaving This Pazyryk Rugs Weaved with Turkish Knot there is not a Armenians or Indians or others knots on majors oriental rugs Sorry. Altai is where Turkic peoples Origin came from Study more your history lesson read more:)

    1. Lora De Allesio

      Turkish and Turkic are not the same ethnicity or culture. Using them interchangeably is showing your attempt at piggy-backing Turkish nomads onto settled cultures. Turkish nomadic peoples came and settled in Europe 1000 years ago just like nomadic Hungarians. Turkish ethnicity or Turkish state as it called today have nothing to do with the carpet from 5 Century. BC.

      1. Ricardo Solar

        Turkic people and Turkish are not the same ethnicity or culture. I never laughed so hard.
        What a ignorant view.

  10. Lora De Allesio

    I would propose that the rug was a bespoke (custom-made) for the nomadic chieftain. There are too many references in the rug design to nomadic life. Thus I doubt it was designed by Persian or Armenian. To draw a parallel to other nomads from the same Era like Scythians, who traded with Greeks, and ordered custom jewelry and objects from settled cultures like Ancient Greece to be produced to their specifications. The designs are completely unique and often very sophisticated and artistic while not based in Greek or any other artistic tradition. So based on that I would guess that the rug was ordered and designed by the nomads and then delivered to them for a fee by craftsmen from any settled culture they were known to be trading with.

  11. NikiJones

    This is a nice blog in which you discuss antique rugs based on today’s trends. Thanks for updating.

  12. NikiJones

    This is a nice blog in which you discuss antique rugs based on today’s trends. Thanks for updating.

  13. Dungangaa

    Pazyryk rug is identified with knotting technique called Gördes Knot. (Turkish knot )
    Turkish -Turkic difference is not meaningful since we are talking about cultural connection and continuity of a certain tradition The Ghiordes / Turkish knot and the Senneh / Persian knot, typical of Turkish carpets and Persian carpets, are the two primary knots..This knot is called Turkish .We didn’t name it. ,
    Sedantaries are trying to claim nomadic rug ,made with nomadic knot ,meanwhile thinking “such a beautiful rug cannot be woven by nomads ” must be perfect example of sedanterizm.

    The Ghiordes knot is the knot used in the oldest surviving pile carpets, the fragments found in Pazyryk kurgan burial mounds, in the Altai of Central Asia.

Leave a reply

Shopping Cart