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Alluring Luris, Denizens of the Zagros
From Woven Gardens (Black and Loveless) (13) come these insights written by authorities in Iranian culture. Joan Allgrove: “…archeologists have been turning up evidence, now capable of interpretation with new techniques, of the existence of the same kind of trans-humance economy in the Zagros mountains of West Iran and East Iraq as early as c12,000 BC. Arnold Wilson in 1907-1914 mentions the Lors in the summer quarters of the Kuh Giluyeh mountains in North West Fars (not to be confused with the Lors of Lorestan proper, much farther north). Their lawlessness was equaled only by that of the Turkmen, and Edwards says that their weavings were “so few in the bazaar that dealers have not bothered to inquire their tribal origin. They call them Lori rugs and leave it at that. ... The Mamasani, a now small Lori tribe, have largely settled north of Kazerun and between the Qashqa’i and Buyr Ahmadi summer quarters, and make only small local migrations.”
From Parviz Tanavoli's, Bread and Salt (14) come these observations. “Some of the Moslem geographers such as Mas’udi (died 956 A.D.) and Yaqut-e Hamavi (died circa 1223 A.D) consider the Lors as a section of the Kurds. Although the Lori and Kurdish tongues resemble each other, they are in fact separate and independent. The proximity of the Kurds to the Lors are the reason for these opinions. The land of the Lors includes a large area in the south and the west of the country. Different tribes of Lors dwell in the provinces of Lorestan, Hamadan, Fars, Isfahan, Chahar Mahal, Kohkiluyeh and Khuzistan.
The weavings of the Lors can be divided (by Tanavoli) into four groups: Lorestan, Bakhtiyari, Kokiluyeh and finally the Mamasani of Mohammad Hasani. This division is a geographical and regional partition, and is done purposely to distinguish between the Lori weavings. In addition to these four divisions, there are other regions in Fars, Kerman and Varamin, inhabited by Lors during the last few centuries which will be mentioned in due course. ... Since the weavings of the Lors of Lorestan, for example their khorjins, have much similarity to the weavings of the Bakhtiyari and Boyer Ahmad, they could have had other pieces such as the namakdan or the sofreh included among them. … In spite of the fact that in the last two decades several articles and papers have been published about the weavings of the Lors of Bakhtiyari, a proper study of these weavings is still lacking. In addition to other characteristics of other Lori weavings, the hand weavings of the Kohkiluyeh Lors are composed with more elegance and are more vivid in their colours. The proximity of these Lors to the Qashqa’is and their influence on each other can easily be traced in their weavings.”
In contrast, in Tribal Rugs, Treasures of the Black Tent (15), Brian MacDonald divides Luri weaving into five groups: Luristan, Kohkiluyeh, Boyer Amade, Mamasani and Bakhtiyari.
And Jenny Housego, from Tribal Rugs, page 14: "Little is known of the history of the Lurs. Some accounts suggest that they may have come from Syria in the tenth century. Their language is Persian in origin, and is the chief link between the four main branches. These are the Lurs proper, who inhabit Luristan, adjoining Kurdistan to the south; the Bakhtiyari, whose long migration takes them from the high Zagros mountains west of Isfahan down to Masjid-I Sulayman on the plains of Khuzistan; and the KuhGilu’I and Mamassani Lurs who live further east, in Fars, where their territory adjoins that of the Qashqa’i. These last named Lurs appear to have a weaving tradition distinct from that of the other Lurs and Bakhtiyaris. They weave pile rugs, weft-wrapped bags and gelims which have much in common with their neighbors, the Qashqa’i. Indeed it is often quite impossible to tell the two apart."
From Oriental Carpets, A Complete Guide (16), by Murray L. Eiland Jr and Murray Eiland III: “The Kurds are by far the largest group, numbering well over three million in Iran and possibly more than seven million in Turkey. Living in small villages or as semi-nomads, along the western mountains, they are closely related to the Lori, who live in the south in Khuzistan, and to the Bakhtiaris, ...”
Jenny Housego, in Tribal Rugs, says: "It has been sugested the Lori gelims are simpler in design, perhaps looser in weave and softer coloring than Qashqa’i examples."
“ Most Lori/Bakhtiyari pieces have red dyed wefts. … the symmetric knot which is found on only a small proportion of Fars pieces in this collection is used by a number of tribal weavers in Iran including the Lori, Bakhtiyari, Kurds, north-west Persian Turkic tribes and also some of the Baluchi. In bags of the Lori and Bakhtiyari extensive use is made of weft-wrapping for saddle bags.”
Of the plates in Woven Gardens, only the following are possibly Luri:
Plate 4 It's soft, loosely woven, long piled texture may indicate the work of the Lors of Fars.
Plates 12, 27,30, 56, 57 Qashqa’i or Lori
Plate 37 Lori
Plate 40 Qashqa’i, Khamseh, or Lori
42 Khamseh or Lori
Only one plate is indisputably attributed to Luri weavers. The others are only possibly Luri. These few examples and the indeterminate nature of their identifications highlight the difficulty in ascertaining a Luri attribution with any certainty.
Edwards, in The Persian Carpet, shows a chart indicating that only one per cent of Fars rugs were woven by Luri weavers. Is this correct, or were many Luri rugs just not recognized as such?
From Tribal Rugs, by James Opie (18), comes these assertions: “Close similarities to old Luri and Bakhtiyari nomadic motifs is a noteworthy feature of some of these (Kurdish) designs. … the term “Luri/Bakhtiyari” is a reliable name for many nomadic bags for which more definitive labels would be open to question. ... “Some members (of the Qashqa’i) speak Luri.” In discussing plate 10.18, Opie notes, “The Qashqa’i label is tentative, given the fact that many of the same motifs appear in Luri rugs and bags. The factors of high quality, knotting density of 144 knots per square inch, and slightly depressed warps all support the Qashqa’i attribution.”
The Khamseh, too, have a Luri component. Opie says: “These (five) tribes were; Arab, who were mostly of Arab ancestry, but with some Lurs”. Opie notes that one of the most famous Khamseh designs, the “bird/chicken/murgh” pattern may have derived from Luri origins.
He notes that "historical references to Luristan date to the seventh or eighth century A.D. or perhaps slightly earlier, well after the Luristan bronzes were fashioned. ... All in all, the romantic mental picture that rug collectors in the West developed regarding tribal weaving traditions is more appropriate to Lurs than to any other group. However, they, too, wove rugs for external markets." Many good, older Luri rugs date to as late as the 1930’s. They still utilized vegetal dyes and retained ancient tribal designs. During the 1930’s, the Shah was determined to modernize Iran, at the expense of the cultures of the tribes. Starvation, settlement and fragmentation irreparably destroyed the centuries old traditions of the Lurs forever. Complicating the differentiation of Luri weavings from their neighbors is the fact that, according to Opie, “Design similarities in Luri and Qashqa’i kilims, saltbags, and many rugs reveal the extent to which Qashqa’i tribes absorbed Luri elements during past centuries, thereby acquiring traditional Luri patterns.”
From Kilim A Complete Guide: “Until very recently the weavings of the Luri tribes have been mistaken for the work of other peoples from the southern regions. Only in the last two decades has it been realized that many of the kilims attributed to the Qashqa’i were in fact Luri, and the belief that the Lurs were merely unimportant copyists of the flamboyant Qashqai weavers has had to be reversed. In fact, the Lurs probably had a major influence on Qashqa’i designs, for the Luri tradition of weaving is believed to stretch far back into history.”
Nonetheless, there are few if any credible examples of Luri, or for that matter Qashqa’i, Khamseh, Afshar or Bakhtiyari tribal weavings from before the middle of the 19th century. Is it because they did not make rugs before the mid 19th century? Is it because we have confused their output with that of others from the pre-mid 19th century era? Did they all wear out? Were they different enough that we cannot confirm with any certainty their correct tribal origin? We know that the tribal affiliations of the Khamseh and Qashqai were “fluid” in the mid 19th century. So, how do we identify or differentiate the Luri weavings from those of their contemporaries?
From Kilim: “The wool of Luri work is much coarser in texture, more loosely spun and thicker in feel, and brown wool is used for warps (the Qashqa’i usually use white cotton). The colours are much duller and more limited in range than the wide palette of the Qashqa’i. The composition of the Luri rugs, although indeed similar and the reason for much of the confusion and wrongful attribution, are less complex in form. The field is bold and uncluttered, with areas outside the main patterning left unadorned, and it has far simpler borders.
Designs : Field: Complex patterns/Medallions
Borders : Simple and traditional
Materials : Coarse brown wool warps, wool wefts
Colours : Dull and limited palette
Fringe : Plain
Selvedge : Plain/Occasional extra-weft reinforcement
Remarks : Similar, but less colourful and ornate than Qashqa’i”
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