Armenians are famous for their rug weaving, Even Marco Polo, in the 13th century, wrote that Armenians were the ones who wove the finest carpets in the world. Additionally, the scholar Ulrich Schumann claims that the earliest known surviving rug (the Pazyryk) was made circa 500 B.C, by the ancestors of modern Armenians.
It has been more than 2500 years, since the very first rug Pazyryk was woven, and it has kept its original colors over the millennia. The Pazyryk is just one great example of Armenians’ hundreds of years of rug weaving experience.
The tympanum of the gait of Noravank monastery has a stone carving on it displaying Mary with the infant Jesus, who is sitting on a carpet. After 15th century Italian artists began to show the virgin and child enthroned with carpets underfoot.
Mary is depicted as a weaver and spinner in 14th and 15th century Armenian manuscripts. This is again proof that weaving and spinning played a large role in Armenian daily life to an extent that is not seen among its historical contemporaries.
In 301 A.D Armenia become the country to adopt Christianity as a religion. Weavers were free to weave Christian symbols into their carpets till the late 1800s. Because of World War I and Ottoman laws, weavers had to obscure and hide their Christian symbols.
Armenia became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic in December 1920. After two years it became one of the fifteen republics that made up the Soviet Union. The government banned cottage industries and as part of the industrialization process forced the weaving manufactories to be converted into factories.
In 1920, after becoming Soviet Armenia under the control of the Soviet Union, part of the industrialization process, harsh, artificial dyes were supplied to the weavers who were now forced to work out of factories.
Armenian Rugs Society was founded in 1980. It had one goal: find as many rugs as possible with Armenian inscriptions and categorize them according to design and technical analysis. Rugs of similar style which are believed to be of Armenian origin are also collected.
One can find many references to “Vishaps” in Armenian history. Vishaps are mythological dragons who lived on Mount Ararat. Armenians believed that Vishaps were guardians of life and that they were the ones to grant waterways, seas, rivers and springs. During the fall families used to pack a picnic and walk up into the mountains to remove the debris (sticks and leaves), so the life given to water could run freely. The Vishaps are a common theme in Armenian rug weaving.
After the1980s, cottage industries of the past returned to prominence. This led to a return to traditional designs and the use of hand spun wool and natural dyes that resemble the admirable antique carpets more than anything woven in the past 100 years.
The date on most rugs is written in a unique Armenian way. The day of the month is written over the month and inserted between century and decade of the year.