Ardabil Carpet – Object from another culture


The Ardabil carpet originates from Persia and is classed as the “world’s oldest carpet,” as it is wholly intact and dates back to 1539AD with an inscription stating “… Masqud from Kashan completed this work in 946.”

The ‘Ardabil’ is revered; since Persian carpets are hard to date because the lack of inscriptions.

The original use of the ‘Ardabil’ was for the shrine of Shaykh Safi Al-Din Ardabil (died 1334) who was a Sufi leader in North Iran. The V&A attained this carpet in 1893 and was bought for £2000; it is thought that the carpet was sold to fund repairs for a recent earthquake at the shrine. It has been situated at the Jameel gallery at the V&A ever since.

Carpet weaving is seen as a form of Islamic Art; the development of designs began in Mesopotamia with different techniques and patterns being specialised and transformed by invasions and movements.

arb capr

ardabil carpet

The design of the ‘Ardabil’ is a simple pattern of contrasting background colours and flora. It has 4 parallel borders, a large medallion centre with a quarter of the medallion being repeated in the corners and also, lamps opposite sides of the main medallion.

The main pattern consists of flowers and scrollwork as the Qur’an states representations of animals or humans is not allowed; this also reflected the sole purpose of the carpet, which was to decorate the shrine.

The colours in ‘Ardabil’ are made up of natural substances such as: saffron, henna, bark, fruit peel and extracts from insects, which are then heated and boiled using wool or cotton.

The warps and weft of the ‘Ardabil’ are silk as they are strong when new; the pile is wool which is dyed naturally and the knots are Persian which means the wool is tied over 4 warps instead of 2, this requires less yarn but lacks density.

structure of carpet knot of carpet

I believe that the composition, colours and materials of the ‘Ardabil’ may not have been grand but the execution and talent is surprising; commissioned for the Shaykhs’ shrine this was to pay homage to his legacy and the Safavid Empire. I believe this design was made by first class designers; also the inscription stating “Masqud” may have been the main designer or employer.

I think this cultural object highlighted to western society the development and talent present in other empires in the 16th Century; which western society may have lacked knowledge and understanding about. Also, the intricacy of this design compared to technical advances within Britain, when attained by the V&A opened a world which western travellers found interesting and wanted to explore.


arberry, a. j. (1953). the legacy of persia . oxford press.

ardabil carpet. (n.d.). Retrieved from V & A:

beattie, M. h. (1976). carpets of central persia. world of islam festival publishing company ltd.

boyle, j. a. (1978). persia history and heritage. henry melland limited .

design of ardabil carpet. (n.d.). Retrieved from V&A:

fokker, n. (1973). persian and other oriental carpets for today . interbook publishing ab.

history of the ardabil carpet . (n.d.). Retrieved from victoria and albert museum:

how the ardabil carpet was made . (n.d.). Retrieved from V & A: