Rugs have always been considered a valuable asset and there are numerous examples that can be cited to show their honored place in history. In fact, area rugs have been popular since the first prehistoric cave dweller placed a tiger skin at the cave entrance. This was done in order to have its odor to ward off predators. Those same people also used rugs as sitting and sleeping surfaces and to provide warmth on a chilly night. It was not until the dark ages and the Renaissance that area were used for decoration, sound reduction, and thermal insulation to warm cold stone floors.
It is believed that the ancient people of Asia were the first to create rugs in quantity. It was a way to utilize the wool from the sheep that they raised. It was also a great replacement for the rough animal hide that was being used.
Some important dates in modern rug history include the first mention in literature. This happened in the Greek classic known as “Agamemnon” in 500 BCE. However, it was not until the seventh century when Islam spread through the Middle East that carpet making accelerated and became an art form. Rugs were created that depicted the culture’s spirituality and the various creations defined the economy.
Fast forward several hundred years to the 13th century and King Louis IX. There you will find that he was the one to make rugs popular in France. It would take more than 100 more years until owning a rug in Europe was seen as a status symbol.
In 1722, the Persian art of handmade rug weaving almost became obsolete because the Afghans invaded Persia. This caused rugs to be considered too precious to put on the floor. Instead, the people of that time period used them to adorn tables, chests, and walls. During that same century, carpet manufacturing took off in Europe and workers began to get paid by the hour instead of by the rug.
It was not until the 19th century that rug makers began to use synthetic dyes in order to create different colored wool. Also during the 1800s, machine-made rugs started to be mass-produced in every region of what was known as the Orient and what is commonly referred to as Asia, today.
The 20th century brought with it worldwide mass production that made it so that rugs were now available to everyone, regardless of status or wealth. In addition, for 60 years, from 1930 to 1990, almost all carpets were created using synthetically dyed wool. Then, the trend changed and hand-knotted, naturally dyed wool became popular.
During this same century, in 1949, a Russian archeologist named Sergei Rudenko discovered what is known as the “Pazyryk” carpet. It was found at a burial site in Siberia and is believed to be the oldest known surviving rug. It dates back to the 5th century BC and was frozen in ice which enabled the carpet’s fiber, color, and design to be preserved. It features rich colors, striking details and a hand-knotted technique that is still in popular use. The rug has approximately 200 knots per square inch and prompted more people to become interested in the history of rugs.