Antique Rugs of Kurdistan

A Legacy of Woven Art

James D. Burns
The Kurdish people have a long and distinguished weaving tradition. These hardy nomads in their mostly mountainous homeland employed a colorful repertoire of traditional motifs in the rugs, bags, and covers that accompanied their migrational treks; while urban workshops, such as those at Sonqor, Senna, Garrus, and Sa'uj Bulagh, produced more elaborate rugs for tribal khans and for export. Antique Rugs of Kurdistan portrays a variety of weavings from all areas of "Kurdistan" prior to the twentieth century, with an examination of one hundred examples.

The book begins with an overview of the Kurdish people and their homeland, which cuts across a number of modern political boundaries: those of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, the countries of the Caucasus, and Syria. It then looks at the history of weaving in the rugged and frequently inaccessible mountains of this region as well as in the ancient plateau bastions. The effect played by Kurdistan's turbulent history — and the hard lifestyles of its people — on the quality and artistic ability of the weavers is also explored. The main part of the book comprises an examination of Kurdistan's seven districts, giving background information about the weavers who lived in each and the construction methods, colors, and designs that they used. Full-page color plates illustrate examples of weavings from each district, and a technical analysis is provided for each piece.

Twelve detailed maps show the locations of the different weaving areas and tribal groups, while over fifty archive illustrations provide fascinating context. An Appendix essay by the historian Mehrdad Izady charts the complex origins and history of the Kurds, which stretches back eight millennia. Shedding much new light on a little-understood area of weaving heritage, Antique Rugs of Kurdistan provides a long overdue introduction to and compelling insight into the lives, creativity, and woven art of the Kurdish people.

James D. Burns has collected rugs and textiles from the Near and Far East for over forty years. His previous book, Traditions in Weaving: The Caucasus, published in 1987, illustrated part of his collection of Caucasian rugs. For this book, along with the expertise he has gained through extensive travel and research, he draws on his own collection of Kurdish weavings as well as selected masterpieces from European and American public and private collections, thus bringing together some of the finest and most beautiful examples extant. James Burns has degrees in History and Political Science from Whitman College, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Washington. He is a trial lawyer in Seattle.

"A splendid book on Kurdish rugs is the gift offered by Jim Burns to the many scholars and enthusiasts who went to Washington D.C. for the recent ICOC. The volume accompanied an exhibition in which Burns displayed a large part of the collection of rugs and textiles that he has patiently and knowledgeably built up over the last decades. The most notable aspect of this book, indeed, is that it represents the work or 'masterpiece' of a collector and shows how the particular method typical of collectors, traditionally criticised by art historians and scholars, can instead be a highly valuable research tool . . ."

find the full review at

For more information about purchasing this book or inquiring about available rugs please contact Mr. Burns at:

James D Burns
2200 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121

Ph. (206) 448-2200