This material does not deal with rugs, but with their
adjunct -- that is, the structure within which they were sometimes made, and
always used. These little buildings have a long history, noted by western
travellers fairly early on, typically described as round houses sometimes
transported on carts. What apparently is the first yurt color
photograph was taken in Merv by Prokudin-Gorsky c. 1914.
The earlier incarnation of RR (Vol II, No. 1, January, 1984) had some travel account
descriptions. One not included was rather long, apparently in Nogai country on
the North Caucasus plains south of Astrachan in 1703. 
“Their tents are made like parrot cages, except that they
are not so elevated in proportion, made of laths three or four inches in width,
covered with felt, camel coat or horse hair. There are those which go down only to a foot or two from the ground, and
which are surrounded with thatch. The
largest have besides that an upper part or covering of fabric, and all [have]
an opening on top to let smoke exit, with a pole in the middle, which goes four
to five feet beyond. They attach at the
end of this pole a sort of sail of several colors which goes down to the
ground, and is held by a rather large strap attached below to one of the sides
of the tent; and with the help of this strap, they turn this sail as they
desire, in order to shelter the wind or the strength of the sun. When all the smoke has gone out from the
tent, and they want to be warm, they cover the opening and it is as warm as in
a stove. Its floor is covered with
pretty fabrics or beautiful rugs, [and] among persons of distinction, with a
slightly raised Turkish style sofa which occupies a third of the tent. One also
sees very beautiful chests in which they stuff that which is the most valuable;
and in general all is of a great cleanliness and in very good order. When they change [from their] place, they put
their tents on wagons and remove the covering.”
There is an argument that the yurt is one of the world’s
principal architectural inventions. Literally the word yurt refers
not to a structure but rather to the ground on which it stands. Some correct terms are – depending on tongue
and transliteration -- iiy, oy, uy,
topak-ev, (Turkish, round house), xane/xana (Persian). Since outsiders regularly
wrong-foot words of cultures they do not understand, nowadays it is yurt
-- sometimes dedicated to other activity
such as weaving or cooking.
There is a view among those who study such matters that
there are two basic forms, rounded roof (Turkic) and pointed roof (Mongol), the
former, with “bent poles”, the latter, with “straight line poles”, for roof
support.  A photo of two side by side yurts of each
type shows up in a routine early 20th c. travelogue about Kazakstan.  The photo below of the Turkish type was taken in Mongolia.  Type thus may not say much about location or who is inside.
Yurts vary in a number of ways; some can be rather grand;
others, exceedingly modest. On average,
for typical dwellings, the wooden lattice structural supports weighed 220 to
331 lbs., the felt cover, 220.  Given a somewhat standard size for ordinary folks’ domiciles the diameter tends
to be more or less the same, thus Turkmen tent bands typically are in the upper
40’ range. One rug, a hearth surround, is peculiar to the yurt.
Altaic Turk yurts of high eastern Asia looked like the
teepees of native Americans, quite conical; and as with the Americans some have
hide coverings, others, birch bark.  The Karakalpak yurt resembles the Kirgiz; the
Turkmen is more attractive than the Kirgiz due to the presence of more white
(felts) and being “richer in furnishings”; otherwise it is a “repetition” of
the Kirgiz.  Yet some non-Turkmen dwellings seemingly were rather well
furnished, viz, a likely Khirgiz interior. Bulk felt is the work
horse cover in central and western Asia – yurts, floors, even carts -- as in
Pictures convey information much better than do words and
can be taken in at a glance. . Appendix
A contains a number of drawings of yurts of various groups.  There is need always for caution with respect to artists’ illustrations. A number of factors – indifference,
carelessness, creativity – can get in the way of accuracy. The drawings in Appendix A, however,
attempted to be accurate: “Yurt types
are according to the literature and field [work] materials.” Indeed, one can see a door closing apparently
of patterned felt, a roof flap dropped down, fabric, wood, perhaps a rug, and
wattle wall surrounds of various types.
Appendix B shows photos of a yurt being set up in Mongolia,
probably in the 1920’s.  Appendix B is accurate and illustrates that many yurts were not gussied
 The Curious and Remarkable Voyages and
Travels of Marco Polo, in Pinkerton’s
Voyages, Vol VII, 1811, taken “chiefly” from Ramusio.
 Le Brun, Corneille, Voyage au Levant, Vol. II, 1726, p. 303/304.
 Rapport Final, Seminaire sur le nomadisme
en Asie central (Afghanistan, Iran, URSS), Commission Nationale Suisse Pour
l’UNESCO, 1977, p. 84.
 Karutz, R., Unter Kirgizen und Turkmen, translated from the Russian, 1917.
 Courtesy Dept. of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History, Neg. No
 Rapport Finale, op. cit., pp. 84-85.
 Kharuzin, N., Istoriya razvitiya
zhilishcha …, pp. 6-7, 1896.
 Borozna, N. G., Material’naya kul’tura
uzbekov babataga i doliny kafirnigana, Material’naya kul’tura narodov Srednei
Azii i Kazakhstana, pp.98-99, 1966.
 American Museum of Natural History, op.
cit., Negs No. 251266 & 67, R. C. Andrews; Neg. No. 251258.
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