Rugs: The History of Oriental and Persian Rugs
Persian rug collectors often justify their obsession with handcrafted Oriental and Persian rugs by explaining their desire to own a small piece of the rich history and beauty behind the art form of Persian rug design.
Oriental and Persian rug weaving is a tradition that spans the centuries over a number of cultures. There are several references to the art of rug weaving found in ancient scriptures and classical writing. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that proves these references where to pile carpets and not simply to flat weaves (Kilims).
On the evidence of fragments found in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian tombs, we know that various forms of flat weaving were well developed more than 4000 years ago. Other evidence suggests that weaving of pile rugs existed in the Middle East and other parts of central, northwest, and eastern Asia long before 2000 BC.
It is definitely certain however, that Asia was the first continent to produce rugs and that it was definitely the nomadic wanderers who created them.
The rearing of sheep, the prime source of carpet wool, is a traditional nomad occupation. Add to this the necessity of thick coverings for people having to endure extreme cold and it's likely the craft of weaving developed to replace the use of rough animal skins for warmth.
Before the discovery of the Pazyryk Rug, the oldest pile rug fragments of ancient rugs ever discovered were found in East Turkmenistan in an area known as the Tarim Basin. This area includes parts of northwest India, East Turkmenistan, southern Russia, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, western China, and Mongolia itself.
The art of pile rug weaving appeared in Europe some time after 1000 AD, and likely in Spain because of its proximity to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Iran.
Other European countries soon imitated the craft and by the 20th century weaving rugs was prevalent in almost all of Europe. However, even with Europe producing their own rugs, we can still see through classic paintings that almost all the rugs depicted appear to be of the Persian or Anatolian types.
Rug weaving in Europe never became as important as it did in Asia and as a result, many Asian nations built enormous rug exporting industries over time.