For centuries, the Afshar nomads were the preeminent Persian tribal group, populating numerous regions within their country’s borders. By the twentieth century, however, their ranks had been diminished to an area in the southeast corner of Iran. Although historians dispute their exact origins, they do agree that their Turkish dialect points to either Azerbaijan or East Turkey. Another interesting fact is the striking similarity to rugs woven in the Caucasian village of Chajli in the Shirvan district (part of Russian Azerbaijan).
Despite the decline of the tribe’s stature, antique Afshar weavings uphold their once great legacy. Nineteenth-century Afshar rugs and carpets are renown for their consistently high quality of materials and craftsmanship, along with a unique aesthetic. Three of their most prolific designs include simple diagonal rows of “boteh” (experts believe that Afshar weavers may have been the first to use “boteh” in carpet weaving), the classic “center and cornerpiece” design, and a vertical axis of three stepped medallions.
Like their venerable neighbors, the Qashqai tribe, antique Afshars have become more and more scarce, and therefore more valuable. Many who collect the high-profile Caucasian and Qashqai weavings almost always include Afshars as well, making stunning floor pieces and excellent wall hangings.
Since the Qashqai people for many generations inhabited Central Asia and the Caucasus before travelling to southern Persia, their weavings are enhanced by influences from all three regions. Similar to the rugs of the Turkmen people in Central Asia, Qashqai weaving has a boldness and directness, particularly in their dominant triangular central medallion. Through their sojourn in mountainous Azerbaijan, the Qashqai acquired the Caucasian weavers’ love of striking colors and daring combinations of tones. Finally, in their present location they have been inspired by the artistry of Persian city weaving, as well as by that of other nearby tribes. In short, Qashqai weaving synthesizes instinctive creativity with refinement, depth of color with richness of symbolism.