Tekke Rugs

Guide to Teke / Tekke Rugs & Carpets

The proper name of the Tekke people is Teke. The misspelling Tekke is so common that I find it hard to go back and correct it. So I move forward using Teke in newer work.

The Teke were part of the Salyr (Salor) of the Oguz Turks. When the Oguz split over the issue of converting to Islam the Teke/Salyr coveted to Islam and became part of the Seljuk/Oguz. The Salyr split in the face of the Mongol onslaught. What we know today as Salor are those that stayed in Turkestan and came under the sway of the Mongols. The Teke emerged again in the 16th century as part of the Sayin Khan-Salor. At this point the Salor/Salar split occurred. The Teke with the Salor stayed in Turkestan under the domination of the Uzbek Mongols. A significant part of the Salyr moved east under the protection of the Mogholistan Khans. They are now in China as the Salar.

Rugs & Weaving
Almost all tekke Rugs have two rows of wefts inbetween each row of knots but a small and rare group only have one row of weft between each row of knots. The tekke used this technique to make pieces finer and more supple than normal.

Tekke Main Carpet Wefts Video:

In Turkmen rugs we regularly see wefts made from hair as opposed to wool. Here I take a close look at these wefts before and after they splay. I do not normally pull apart Tekke Rugs so what I found was a big surprise.

Tekke Edge Knots

Here we see an edge, the first row is a two warp unit selvage overcast in blue wool which is rather traditional. Next to that is three rows of symmetrical knots before the asymmetric open right knots of the field begin.

There is similar example of symetrical edge knots in a Teke Ensi in Mallett, Marla. Woven Structures 2.81 Page 53. Symetrical edge knots are more stable than asymetrical knots. They are seen in son Cental Asian rugs especially Tekkes and in some Chinese carpets. Yomut and Saryk may have overlapping symetrical edge knots.

Gurbaghe Gul

This is one of the more common Tekke carpet minor Guls. not as common as the Chemche Gul but not uncommon.

Chemche Gul
Also Tschemtsche (German)

The Chemche Gul is a minor gul commonly seen in Tekke rugs and bags. This type of Chemche is referred to as the Arrow Chemche on the basis of he tertiary white arrow like designs.

Star and Octagon Border
Star is not quite right but it is in common usage. Actually the stars are floral forms that may be best called rosettes. This is an old border seen in carpets generally considered older,

The Star and Octagon Border predates the Salor Tekke split. For Salor use of the Star and Octagon Border in an Ensi see 19th century Salor Ensi page 31, Thompson, Jon. Oriental Carpets and also in Salor Ensi.

Tekke Gul

This is the most common main Gul in Tekke  main carpets.  An  important clue to estimating age is the height to width ratio. Those with a greater height to width ratio tend to be older. Please note the top Gul. I feel this is older than the lower gul. The middle gul even though it has good age strikes me as younger that the top gul. The bottom Gul is much younger dating to turn of the century 1895 – 1920. The Gul has flattened out dramatically.

I believe this was due to European market influences. For my purposes I will consider Russian merchants as European. As European influence increased there became market pressure to weave fine rugs. With the patterns staying the same the weaver turned to fine yarn and more compression on the loom. Consequently as the rugs got finer the guls got flatter.

The Archtypal Gul

These guls are described by the great British rug expert Dr. Jon Thompson as the “Archtypal Gul”. For related exampes see Mackie, Louise & Thompson, Jon. Turkmen. Plate 35 & 36. See pages 106 and 107 for discussion of those plates.


Tekke main carpet, TURCOMAN, 1st half 19th ct., losses to pile, shortened.
Size 200 x 205 cm

Country of Origin: Turkmenistan

Date of Origin circa 1880

Use: Main Carpet

JBOC Comments: Very nice end skirts and good color.

This deep vibrant red Tekke Main is woven at more than 200 knots per sq. in. It is so flexible one can pull it up from a hardwood floor like a towel. One hole repaired in center small bite out of one side but in general full pile and a rare wonderful Turkmen main carpet. A person could wear this rug.

A Tekke Main Carpet, West Turkestan, mid-19th century remnants of kilim end finishes, minor foldwear, overcast sides, approximately 8 ft. 8 in. by 6 ft. 11 in. (2.64 by 2.11m.)

A Tekke Main Carpet, TURCOMANIA, ca. 1850. Size 260(310) x 206cm

A Tekke Turkmen Carpet Fragment Turkmenistan 19th century, Cut and reduced in width, missing on sides and ends, overcast on all four sides, repiled moth damage one end, moth damage, small slits one side border. Approximately 7 ft. 8 in. by 4 ft. by 8 in. (234 by 142 cm)

A Tekke Main Carpet, West Turkestan, circa 1880 original striped kilim ends with minor repairs, overcast sides, 1-inch by 1-inch reweave. Approximately 7ft. 8in. by 6ft. 9in. (2.34 by 2.06m.)

Van-Ham Tekke. 1900

Van-Ham Tekke. 1900

Van-Ham Tekke. Um 1900. 290 x 202cm

Mid 19th C. Tekke Rug

Mid 19th C. Tekke Rug

West Turkestan mid nineteenth century.

Warp: wool, Z2S, ivory.

Weft: wool, two shoots, Z2S loosely plied, medium to dark gray-dark brown.

Pile: wool asymmetrical knot open to the left.

Density: 8 1/2 – 9H, 16-18V.

Sides: 1 cords of 2 warps, overcast not original.

Ends: 4 inches earthen red kilim with blue stripes, warp fringe.

Size: Approximately 3 ft. 1 in. by 3 ft. 3 in. (0.93 m. by 0.99 m.)

Colors: earthen red, sienna red, rust, deep azure, teal camel, mahogany.

Tekke Turkmen Main Carpet C. 1830 – 1860 

Tekke Turkmen Main Carpet C. 1830 - 1860

Size: 292cm(H) x 208cm(W) / 9’7″(H) x 6’10″(W)

Region: Central Asia – Turkmen

Item Type: Rugs and Carpets

Period / Date: 1830 – 1860

Main Color: Red

Condition: Good. Evenly worn with some wear.

This Tekke Main Carpet is of the copper/red type. It has a rare border variant and good age. The Guls are nicely lobed and rounded. The scale of the carpet is large. A good, old, and interesting piece with an unusual pale yellow in alternating gul centers.

Rare Tekke Turkmen saddle cover

Rare Tekke Turkmen saddle cover

Turkmenistan, late 19th/early 20th century. 1ft.4in. x 1ft.3in. 0.41m. x 0.38m.

Tekke Bagface

Tekke Bagface

This may well be the face pannel of a khordjin or saddlebag, late 19th or early 20th century.

Size: 1 foot 1 inch by 1 foot 6 inch.

Structure: Asymmetrical knot open to the right. 11 knots per horizontal inch and 19 knots per vertical inch. 209 per square inch (3239.5 per square decimeter)

Yarn Spin: Z.

Warp: 2 ply tan wool.

Weft: 2 shots brown wool.

Pile: 2 wool singles.

Ends: Post-hitch wharf binding with .5 inch warp fringe.

Selvages: 2 cord interlaced cherry goat.

Handle: Light, pliable, durable.

Further Notes: Very good condition, end binding off depleted fringe in a 1 inch section, minor uneven wear in some places.

In the late seventeenth century the Salor confederation broke up which forced the three primary tribes of the confederation, the Salyr, the Saryk, and the Teke out of the Mangyshlak Peninsula and the Balkan Mountains. The tribes moved eastward and then south. this set off a series of incidents where the Saryk usurped the Salyr and then the Tekke/Teke usurped the Saryk. The Tekke/Teke were the dominant southern Turkmen tribe when the Russians came in.

History of the Tribes
Against the Russians they have, with one exception, been uniformly unsuccessful. In 1872, 1873, 1875, 1876, and 1877, the Akhals have been assailed by Russian troops advancing into their territory, and on each occasion they appear to have had much the worst of it, except in the last-mentioned year, when General Lomakine, after occupying Kizil Arvat, was forced to beat a retreat, either through want of supplies or some other cause. But that was a solitary instance, and this has been more than redeemed by the successful operations of the same general in 1878.

The Tekke people descend from one of the 23 Oghuz Turkmen Tribes. By 1200 AD they had settled as agriculturists in the Syr Darya region. They were then uprooted in the Mongol Invasions and moved west towards the Caspian Sea. By the 16th century the Tekke moved into the Akhal region along the Kopetdag Mountains and then gradually pushed the Salor from the Murgap River basin. They stayed there until defeated by the Russians. The Tekke ceased to function as a cohesive tribal confederation after the battle and massacre of the Tekke by the Russians January 12, 1881. While they ceased to exist as a tribal unit they are still identifiable as an ethno-linguistic group since they share a common dialect called Tekke or Chagatai.

“In the early sixteenth century, the Turkmen “were concentrated in four main regions: along the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea, on the Mangyshlak Peninsula (on the northeastern Caspian coast), around the Balkan Mountains, and along the Uzboy River running across north-central Turkmenistan”. Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

“Many scholars regard the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries as the period of the reformulation of the Turkmen into the tribal groups that exist today. ” Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

“Beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing into the nineteenth century, large tribal conglomerates and individual groups migrated east and southeast.” Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

“Historical sources indicate the existence of a large tribal union often referred to as the Salor confederation in the Mangyshlak Peninsula and areas around the Balkan Mountains. The Salor were one of the few original Oghuz tribes to survive to modern times. In the late seventeenth century, the union dissolved and the three senior tribes moved eastward and later southward.” Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

(16th century) “The Yomud split into eastern and western groups, while the Tekke moved into the Akhal region along the Kopetdag Mountains and gradually into the Murgap River basin. The Salor tribes migrated into the region near the Amu Darya delta in the oasis of Khorazm south of the Aral Sea, the middle course of the Amu Darya southeast of the Aral Sea, the Akhal oasis north of present-day Ashgabat and areas along the Kopetdag bordering Iran, and the Murgap River in present-day southeast Turkmenistan.” Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

The Merv Tekke had settled in the Tejen swamps until the drought of 1831-1834. They moved from Sarahks to as far south as Seistan until abut 1855. Pankratov, Turkmen Tribes

The Tejen Swamps are North by North west of Sarahks. The swamps are the area where the Tejen river disappears into the sands of the KaraKum desert. The Merv Tekke or any tribe needs water and until the drought they could survive in the desert. Once they ran out of water they moved up river and pushed the Salor and Saryk from Sarahks.

“Beginning in the sixteenth century, most of the Turkmen tribes were divided among two Uzbek principalities: the Khanate (or emirate) of Khiva (centered along the lower Amu Darya in Khorazm) and the Khanate of Bukhoro (Bukhara).” Library of Congress: Turkmenistan Formation of the Turkmen Nation March 1996

The Tekke defeated the Khan of Khiva at Sarahks in 1855. This allowed the Tekke to occupy the Sarahks region. It also set off 12 years of Turkmen rebellion against the Khiva Khanate. Khanate of Khiva 1511-1920

Late 1873 “Short of money for the return to Tashkent, Kaufman ordered the other Turkmen tribes in Khivan territory to pay their shares of the fine, some 301,000 rubles. Becoming somewhat more reasonable, he allowed them to pay half the sum in camels and the other half in either coin or gold or silver jewelry and other objects. They were given from July 21 to August 2 to pay. The punishment of the Yomuds had its desired effect on the other Turcomen bands. At the deadline, some 92,000 rubles had been collected, and as there was evidence of intent to pay, Kaufman allowed an indefinite extension to the payment deadline. To insure full payment, he took 26 hostages from among the families of Turcomen notables.” Hinson, The Fall of Khiva.

Gen. Michael Skobelev, commander of Krasnovodsk fort transported 11,000 Russian troops to Goktepe on their newly built railway. Goktepe fell to the Russians in 1881. Gen. Michael Skobelev allowed his men to execute 8,000 men women children and even babies. They used bayonets on the babies. Ogata Resource Treasure-trove

The circumcision of a young Tekkè boy is a major event in the life of the Turkmen. “Wealthy Turkman families usually hold a party which includes horseracing and wrestling to celebrate this event.” TURKMENS OF IRAN

The Social Order of the Merv Tekke in 1882

At this point in time there were two main groups of Tekke. The Akhal Tekke had been the senior branch but they had suffered a crushing defeat at Geok Tepe the year before. The Merv Tekke were further from the Russians and were still an Independent people. The Tekke Uruk or tribal confederation was made up of two Uymaqs. The Toktamish were the senior Uymaq and the Otamish were the lesser. Pankratov, Turkmen Tribes

Kouchid Khan, who commanded the Merv Tekke nation during its migration to Merv,and in the subsequent war with Persia was hereditary chief of the Toktamish. On his death ,his son Baba Khan was not accepted by the Otamish. Pankratov, Turkmen Tribes

In 1855-6 Kouchid Khan leader of the Merv Tekke moved the Tekke to the Merv Oasis. In about 1559 The Persians with the aid of the Saryk attack Merv to drive the Tekke out. Despite the artillery and superior military force the Tekke win. At a point in-between 1859 and 1880. Kouchid Khan dies and his son Baba Khan can only hold the Toktamish. The Otamish Tekke refuse to recognize Baba Khan as anything more than an honorary leader. Pankratov, Turkmen Tribes

The Toktamish Tekke live east of the Murghab river. The Otamish Tekke live east of the Murghab river.

Profile of a Nomad

In this portrait, Prokudin-Gorksii captures the traditional dress, jewelry, and hairstyle of an Uzbek woman standing on a richly decorated carpet at the entrance to a yurt, a portable tent used for housing by the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. After conquering Turkestan in the mid 1800s, the Russian government exerted strong pressure on the nomadic peoples to adopt a sedentary lifestyle and settle permanently in villages, towns, and cities.

JBOC Note: The girl and the yurt look Uzbek. That leads to the question of where did she get the Tekke carpet. Unless the carpet is Uzbek as well.

A Former Slave on the Tekke and the Russian Victory

“we soon found ourselves in the garden of Dawlatabad, where we sat in a shady corner and conversed with an old gardener who had been for thirteen months a slave in the hands of the (Tekke) Turcomans. He had been taken prisoner by them near the Kal’at-i-Nadiri about the time that Hamze Mirza was besieging Mashhad (1848), and described very graphically his experiences in the Turcoman slave-market; how he and his companions in misfortune, stripped almost naked, were inspected and examined by intending purchasers, and finally knocked down by the broker to the highest bidder. He had finally effected his escape during a raid into Persian territory, in which he had accompanied the marauders as a guide, exactly after the manner of the immortal Haji Baba. He and the Erivani joined cordially in abusing the Turcomans, whom they described as more like wild beasts than men. “They have no sense of fear,” said the latter, “and will never submit, however great may be the odds against them; even their women and children will die fighting. That was why the Russians made so merciless a massacre of them, and why, after the massacre was over, they piled up the bodies of the slain into a gigantic heap, poured petroleum over it, and set it on fire, that perhaps this horrible spectacle might terrify the survivors into submission.”” A Year Amongst the Persians: Yedz pages 399 – 400

Akhal versus Merv Tekkes

“The Akhal preserved more of the traditional characteristics of ancient carpet weaving, while the Merv Tekkes experienced a strong Salor influence and thus adopted such specific Salor features as knot depression and a great repertoire of designs.” Elena Tsareva Dudin Collection – Tekkes

Tekke Weaving:

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and then Iran. Mostly Turkmenistan.

Size: Bags rugs and carpets.

  • Tekke pile weaving is noted for the great variety of items: main carpets, rugs, namazlyks, different sizes of tent bags, and decorations. Especially rich was the wedding caravan’s outfitting — five-sided camel trappings (asmalyks), breast plates (khalyks), knee decorations (dizlyks), belts, and some others. Occasionally one can find special paired rugs for covering the skylight of the yurt and U-shaped rugs to surround the hearth. Tekkes often used door hangings, ensis and kapunuks of different forms, or thresholds, such as germetches. Tsareva, Dudin Collection – Tekkes

Structure: Asymmetric open left. In rare cases open right. 140 to 540 KPSI Average around 200 KPSI. No depression to slight warp depression in older rugs and deeper depression increasing to deep depression on very late rugs.

Yarn & Pile: Z Spun wool

Warp: Two ply white wool.

Weft: 2 shots gray, brown red, or ivory wefts (Black in late 3rd phase). Camelhair wefts in a Bird Asmalyk. There are single wefted Tekke pieces, see Purple Group Tekke Ensi

  • Jim Allen suggests that red wefts are more common in dowry pieces
  • Camelhair wefts in a Bird Asmalyk.

Knot: Asymmetrical open right is normal. Ensis may have symmetric Tekke Edge Knots.

Pile: 2 wool singles.

Ends: Most often weft faced plain weave.

Selvages: Blue wool overcast over multiple warp units.

Handle: Light – medium. later rugs get a progressively heavier handle as warp depression increases. .