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Antique Karadja (Karaja, Qarajeh) rug, Iranian Azerbaijan, early 20th century.

Pile rug from the village of Qarajeh,
in east Azarbayjan, Iran, ca. 1900

Qarajeh is a village which today has a population of about 1,800, and it seems likely that it was never much larger, as the local water supply is meager. Nevertheless, weaving output over the years has been considerable, and this obscure outpost has a reputation for good color and design. Village elders say the local mosque was built in about 1800 - such information is never very precise - and an uninterrupted local pile rug weaving tradition probably dates back to about that time. The mosque contains no prayer rugs and, in fact, there is only a very limited tradition of pile prayer rugs in east Azarbayjan.

"Qarajeh" rugs in this format usually have "cloud collar" medallions and are locally called pushti. The design here, which seems a highly stylized version of a fairly common repeat hanging pomegranate motive, is very unusual in Azarbayjani weaving, and its unbalanced aspect makes the piece look like a prayer rug. Was it ever so intended?

Since most pile prayer rugs were woven for export, and not for devotional purposes, it is not surprising to see a rug like this one with an ambiguous design.

Structural Analysis
Size: 4' x 3' 3" (122 x 99 cm)

Warp: 3ZS undyed cotton, no warp depression

Weft: undyed cotton singles, one weft per row of knots

Pile: loosely plied 2Z wool symmetric knots, 1/4" in length, 7v x 9 h, 63 kpsi

Colors: (8) dark blue, orange red, light blue, ivory, rose, green, beige (undyed wool), dark brown
Ends:  missing; end borders slightly reduced

Sides: two pairs of warps, wrapped in light blue and beige wool in figure-8 fashion