Rug weaving was most likely brought to Turkey by the Seljuks, a nomadic people from Central Asia. By the 15th and 16th centuries the Seljuks were conquered by the Ottomans. Rugs from the Ottoman empire were imported to Europe by Italian traders in the late Middle ages. Most Europeans thought of Oriental rugs as Turkish carpets until the 17th century when Persian rugs appeared(1). It was also during this time that famous artists were incorporating Turkish carpets into their paintings. During the 19th and 20th centuries Turkish rugs were exported to the USA; however rug trade was disrupted by WWI(2).
There are several distinguishing features of Turkish rugs. They always incorporate the Turkish knot, the warp and weft threads of all carpets made before or around 1870 were wool or goat hair, they always have flat-woven side cords, and Turkish carpets are commonly geometric in nature and are woven with rich colors(2).
Nomads and villagers weave less sophisticated traditional patterns, while formal styles are created in workshops and factories similar to Iran. See our Guide to Persian Rugs for more information on Iranian rug weaving. Most traditional style Turkish carpets are named for the city or region in which they were first made, similar to Persian carpets. Turkish rugs are usually woven on a wool or cotton foundation and the pile is usually made with good quality wool. Silk/mercerized cotton can also be used for the pile or foundation occasionally(1).
Kumkapi (Kum Kapi, Koum Kapi)
Mudjur (Mucur, Mujar)
(1) Jerrehian, Aram K. Jr. Oriental Rug Primer; Buying and Understanding New Oriental Rugs. Pennsylvania, Running Press, 1980. Print.
(2) Bennett, Ian. Book of Oriental Carpets and Rugs. New York, The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1972. Print.