*Asst. Prof. Dr. Servet Senem Uğurlu

*Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Traditional Turkish Arts.


The history of weaving is as old as the history of humanity. Due to the biological structure of the human being, they must be always covered so as to protect themselves from the negative natural conditions of the environment in which he lives, and so as not to be affected by surrounding hard objects, cold or hot, the sun and the wind. Therefore, the first examples in the creation of textural surfaces were flexible textural surfaces where human beings could feel comfortable and safe, which moved in all directions; thus, protecting them as well as not hindering their movements. Over the time, societies and geographical conditions have traditionalized textural surfaces, and local as well as national identities have created works and international examples at artistic levels.

In prehistoric ages, people met their needs for covering by using animal skins. Weaving and its use, tradition of which dates back as far as hunting and shepherding, affected people's curiosity, occupation and lives. During their historical process, weavings, which used to be worn for covering, were enriched and diversified by means of concepts such as status and fashion.

Human knowledge in the field of textile followed by animal skin, knot, felt, knitting, and finally by weaving. Human beings used their hands to process raw materials in the nature and to create textural surfaces. They made yarn by means of materials such as intestines, hair, horse hair, plant leaves, and used hand tools or different materials, such as axes, for attaching or binding purposes. Ties, knots, hair and latticework made of plants and leaves are the textural surfaces people have created using their hands since the Stone Age. When the history of hand spinning is taken look at, it is seen that it dates back to the ancient times. In polytheism, large number of goddesses were depicted by means of spindle used in spinning and twisting yarn. The techniques used at the beginning of spinning and weaving still continue to be used in today’s world. Furthermore, it is thought that people met their covering needs primarily from animal skins, and weaving was inspired by wicker and basket weaving before the invention of yarn spinning. It is unknown when, where, how and by whom the textural surfaces were first created by five basic methods -namely post, knotting, felting, knitting and weaving, which have been used even today. The discovery of archaeological findings in Çatalhöyük (Catal Huyuk) in Anatolia show that woven fabrics were used around 7000 BC, which reveals that weaving and hand weaving techniques, which are among textural surface techniques created with two yarn systems, were known 9000 years ago. It is thought from the archaeological findings that weaving technique first appeared in Anatolia and its surroundings. The discovery of archaeological weavings in Cyprus, Crete and Greece besides Anatolia, which date back to approximately 5500 B.C., confirms this presupposition.

The textural surface created by interlocking two yarn systems -namely warp and weft- at right angles to one another and in a regular manner is called “weaving”, while the regular interlocking of the warp and weft yarns at right angles to one another is called "weaving weft". The basic weaving wefts used in the weaving process are Plain Weave, Twill and Satin. An endless variety of weaving wefts have been created with the use of the basic weaving wefts. In Anatolian Nomadian and Turkmen weaving traditions, various traditional and local weavings were woven, by mostly using basic weaving wefts.

It is found out from the tablets dating back to 2000 B.C. that the basic and simple weaving technique developed and turned out to be the weaving loom, and that weaving trade was intensely performed in Anatolia and its surroundings. Moreover, these tablets contain important information regarding the names and quality of the weavings and how they were made. It is seen from these tablets that weaving became an important means of trade in Anatolia and its surroundings in 2000 B.C.

In Ancient Egypt, linen, cotton, silk, and wool were used as weaving materials. During the archaeological excavations, it was found out that the Tarkhan Dress discovered in Egypt was the oldest dress and the oldest woven fabric with worldwide recognition. The linen dress, confirmed to be 5500 years old as a result of the radiocarbon tests, dates back to 3482-3102 BC. In 3000s BC, cotton fibres were used in India, and silk was produced in China in the same period. While shedding systems in weaving were unknown until the 3rd century in Europe, China was quite advanced in weaving and the Chinese people became famous in the world for their silk weaving.

The most important development in weaving has occurred in the last three hundred years. First of all, with the invention of the whip loom and the shuttle, the width of the looms enlarged and the width of the weavings increased. In addition to this, more yarn was needed as the efficiency had increased and the weaving production had accelerated. With the invention of the yarn twisting machine in 1765, the yarn supply required for weaving was met. In 1789, in Europe, J. M. Jacquard made the Jacquard loom, which was named after him. Thus, the weaving sector in Europe started mass production in the Industrial Age.

Moreover, the dyeing of weaving threads and fabrics as well as the decoration of weavings with printing techniques date back to ancient times. Samples of dyed fabrics were found in Rome in the 2nd century B.C., silk weaves dyed by the tie-dying method in China during the Tang Dynasty as well as samples of printed fabrics made in India in the 4th century were also found. The purple dye obtained from the shellfish Murex and Purpura in the Eastern Mediterranean was used as the colour of status during this period.

Coptic fabrics made of wool and linen unearthed from archaeological excavations in Egypt, dating back to the 6th century, show that weaving was highly developed in the period when these weavings were made. Sassanid weavings woven in Ancient Iran during the Sassanid period were also significant. Byzantine weavings woven in Anatolia and especially in Istanbul, followed by Ottoman weavings, became one of the important weaving centres.

Antiquity / Ancient History Weaving Looms

In the ancient period, linen, wool and similar materials were woven on weaving looms after being spun into rope. Various weaving looms were used in this period.

Drawing 1. Horizontal Floor Bench,
Drawing: Aydın Uğurlu

The weaving loom, called the Penelope Loom, was heavily used in the Ionian and Aegean cultures in the Antiquity. Penelope Loom had vertical warp threads and weights such as stone, ceramic, which were knotted in the warps or the purpose of tightening them. It is understood from the large numbers of stone, ceramic and terracotta bench weights unearthed from archaeological findings in Ancient Age settlements such as Anatolia, Cyprus, Crete, Corinth/Greece that this type of bench was widely used. In addition to this, weaving loom weights belonging to the Bronze Age were found in many archaeological excavations in Anatolia. The fact that weaving loom weights were found in regions such as Anatolia, Egypt, and Mesopotamia shows that horizontal floor loom and Penelope Loom were used together in these regions in the Antiquity.

Drawing 2. Penelope Loom,
Drawing: Aydın Uğurlu

It is known that there were epics and archaeological findings which mentioned that the horizontal warp system Floor Loom and the vertical warp system Penelope Loom had been widely used in civilizations that created social culture in Anatolia and the world. From past to present, these looms have been developed by undergoing a change, and diversified in Anatolia with the invention of looms like the Three Foot Bench and the Istar Bench.


  • AYTAÇ, Çetin, El Dokumacılığı, Millî Eğitim Bakanlığı Yayınları, İstanbul 1997.
  • BARBER, E.J. W., Prehistoric Textiles The Development of Cloth in The Neolithic and Bronze, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1992.
  • DÖLEN, Emre, Tekstil Tarihi, Teknik Eğitim Fakültesi Yayınları, İstanbul 1992.
  • RORDORF, Günter, Neues Grosses Handbuch der Textilkunde Ein Hand-und Nachschlagebuch für die Praxis Textilkaufmannes und für alle Zweige des Textilfaches, Fachbuchverlag Dr. Pfanneberg.
  • UĞURLU, Aydın, “Geleneksel Eldokumalarında Görsel Değerlerin Kullanımı ve Oluşum Biçimlerinin İrdelenmesi”, Unpublished PhD Dissertation in Arts, İstanbul Devlet Güzel Sanatlar Akademisi, Görüntü Sanatları Fakültesi, İstanbul 1983.
  • UĞURLU, Aydın, “Anadolu Dokumalarında Motif Felsefesi”, Tekstil ve Mühendis Dergisi, sy. 26, Bursa, Nisan 1991, s. 76-82.
  • UĞURLU, Aydın, “Antik Çağ Anadolu Dokuma Sanatı”, İlgi Dergisi, sy. 43, İstanbul, 1985, s. 11-17.
  • UĞURLU, Servet Senem, “Geleneksel Tekstil Teknikleriyle Yeni Sanatsal Çalışmalar”, Unpublished PhD Dissertation in Arts, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf Üniversitesi, Güzel Sanatlar Enstitüsü, İstanbul 2018.


*Asst. Prof. Dr. Servet Senem Uğurlu

*Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Traditional Turkish Arts.

Anatolian Weaving in the Prehistoric Period

Anatolia has been an important geographical location for settlement by people since the Paleolithic Age. During the archaeological excavations made in Anatolia, many tools such as spindle whorls, spindles, spinners, distaffs, combs, scissors, needles, skewers, hooks, and rhinestones dating back to this period were discovered. Furthermore, it was understood from some stone relief and sculpture details that Anatolian people had knowledge about weaving at that time. People who lived in that period protected the places they lived in with fences which they built from tree branches. Then, they plastered these fences with soil and made a plasterboard wall called mud-brick. It is known that Anatolian people made baskets, threads, ropes, hammocks and weavings by using straw, linen, hemp, bristle and woollen materials during this period. It has been understood that they coloured their weavings, and that they also knew techniques such as tie-dye, Indonesian method for tie-dye (ikat), wood-mould printing, and that they embroidered them with beads, precious metals and various sea shells.

In prehistoric times, Anatolia was one of the most important centres in the world where advanced level of weaving was exercised. During the excavations in 1962 in Çatalhöyük (Catal Huyuk) by British archaeologist James Mellart, weaving parts dating back to 6000 B.C. were discovered. Wall decorations similar to rug patterns were also identified.

The oldest Anatolian weaving sample survived until today was discovered during the Phrygian excavations made in Gordion dating back to 6000 BC. However, these weaving parts were lost because they could not be preserved properly in the museum (Uğurlu, 1985: 13). While the weaving piece on the handle of a staghorn tool dating back to 7000 BC was discovered later on during the excavation in Çayönü (Desti, 2005: 17), the linen fabric pieces found in Çatalhöyük (Catal Huyuk) in 2013 have been accepted as the first examples of Anatolian weaving. (Picture 1). It is quite surprising that this 9000-year-old organic material has remained in good condition without being charred until today. Thanks to this finding, it is understood that the history of weaving in Anatolia dates back even further. It is interesting -in terms of our subject; weaving- that the mythological legends such as Gordion, Golden Fleece, Penelope took place in the Anatolian geography (Picture 2).

Moreover, as a result of archaeological excavations carried out in ancient Anatolian settlements such as Laodicea, Troia, Sinope, Miletus, and in places where different civilizations existed such as Van, Kayseri, Maraş, Urfa and Mardin, various tools, equipment and charred weaving pieces were discovered.

Picture 1. Pieces of linen fabric found at Çatalhöyük (Catal Huyuk) in 2013
http://www.aktuelarkeoloji.com.tr/?/=1386#, 28.12.2014.

Hand-Weaving in Anatolia, usually exercised by women, started by Eve’s making clothes from wool / linen to Adam. And the sanctity of the profession continued throughout the Antiquity. It was believed that ancient Anatolian weavers were protected by goddesses such as Ishtar, Cybele and Athena. Furthermore, it is known that the sanctity of hand weaving continued with mythological narratives such as Arahkne, Golden Fleece, Penelope, as the result of the prophet Set’s being considered as the master of weavers (Uğurlu, 1985: 12-17).

Based on the results of the research, considering the weaving as a sacred occupation, women span and twisted yarn for weaving, decorated fabrics, carpets, rugs, cicim, zili, sumac and skewer weavings with striped, plaid, various patterns of crochet and needle knitting, lace and knot knits that they created on a geometric basis.

Figure 2. Penelope narrative on ancient ceramics
https://penelope.hypotheses.org/79, 18.10.2020.

Anatolian Weaving in Byzantine Empire Period

Anatolian weavings, enriched under the Greek, Roman, Eastern Roman / Byzantine, Persian and Arab administrations, had always been indicators of status and authority with its ornate, tasselled, lace and flashy accessories since Antiquity. In the Byzantine Empire, during the Justinian period in 555, two priests from the Aynaros Monastery hid the silkworm eggs in their walking sticks which they had smuggled from China and brought them to Istanbul (Picture 3).

Silk thread production started ever since in the Byzantine Empire in many cities in Anatolia region, especially in İstanbul, İzmit, İznik and Bursa to name a few. During the Byzantine Empire period, weavings symbolizing reign, magnificence, power and wealth were made on the basis of Christian, Jewish and Paganist beliefs in Anatolia. Byzantine Empire had a great reputation in Europe with its Silk Weavings. Silk weavings made by women and young girls in Istanbul during this period were invaluable artistic textiles popular in European countries. In the West, these fabrics were proudly used as the ceremonial dress of the clergy. However, these weavings were also used for the purpose of covering like in Semitic societies in some ages.

Picture 3. Byzantine Emperor Justinian greets two monks who has smuggled silk cocoons from China to Byzantine, The Trustees of The British Museum, Inventory No. F. 1.164,
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?assetId=177432&objectId=1619054&partId=1, 20.11.2016.

With the increase in the relations between Anatolia and the Near East in the 10th and early 11th centuries, increasing number of plant and animal figures and complex decorations in Anatolian fabrics was seen due to Seljuks (Picture 4). Quality yarns spun by women and children were used, and patterned weaving and manufacturing that were embroidered with gold thread and silver glitter became very famous. Moreover, weaving and dyeing guilds were established in this period so as to keep the quality of weaving under control and to prevent problems in production and sales. Silk weaving had always been produced and sold under state control. However, the weaving order established by Byzantine Empire was interrupted and even destroyed from time to time by the attacks of the Crusaders. As a result of the IV. Crusades in 1204, the imperial workshops of the Byzantine Empire by the Hippodrome were burned and destroyed, and the Crusaders brought lavender and purple coloured silk fabrics with one or two headed eagle or lion figures on them, which had been produced for the Byzantine Emperors, and other weavings, weaving masters as well as weaving looms to Europe as war booty. These weavings were used as materials in the religious clothing of many European churches. As a result, silk weaving was almost over as Byzantine weaving had suffered from a great destruction (Uğurlu, 2018: 4-6).

Anatolian Weaving in Anatolian Seljuks Period

“The Oghuzs, who learnt Chinese weaving in Central Asia and migrated into Anatolia, settled in Anatolia during this migration with the awareness of the Sassanid, Byzantine and Ilkhanid weaving culture (Uğurlu, 1986: 5-6). The Turks, who were in the nomadic culture, came to Anatolia as nomadic communities under the leadership and guidance of the colonizer Turkish dervishes after the Malazgirt Victory in 1071. Having come to Anatolia, Yoruk and Turkmen Oghuz tribes settled in important strategic places at the intersections of roads, by paying attention to the geographical locations. The Turks who came to Anatolia as a nomadic society used to weave and use it according to their daily needs. Anatolian weavings in the Seljuk Period were an indicator of prestige, especially in European states like Italy. Although examples of folk fabrics from the Anatolian Seljuks have not survived until today, two Seljuk palace silky fabrics with different patterns have survived. After the collapse of the Anatolian Seljuks because of the Mongols, hand weaving continued to develop and diversify during the Anatolian Principalities. It is inferred from domestic and foreign records as well as traveller notes that weavings made during the Anatolian Principalities were exported to many countries in the East and the West. In this period, the Ottoman Principality increased its interest and admiration for palace life during its relations with the Byzantine Empire. In addition to the carpets woven in Anatolia, striped-rod patterned weavings were considered as "Devil's Fabric", which was a different approach in Western countries. The relationship between weaving and art is very old. The paintings on the cave walls became portable and widespread only after the canvas was woven.

Since the Central Asian Step Culture, the Turks created weaving places such as Karaçadır/Kılçadır and Topak Ev/Yurt with their thick weaving, felt, straps and girth weaving types using materials like wool and goat hair. Anatolian Weavers made their weavings for daily use on simple looms and decorated them with plain, striped, plaid and checkered patterns. They used different types of weaving techniques with the special techniques that they had developed such as Indonesian method for tie-dye (ikat), crepe and towel. They created weavings with felt, gabardine, serge, mora cloth, sail cloth, broadcloth, muslin and Damascus weavings, pied, silk apron, kutnu, cheesecloth, velour, seraser, taffeta, canfes, carpet, light rug, sumac, zili, rug, weft and warp embroidered, multi-shuttled, surface-changing, patterned, double-layered and special structured weaving types.

Picture 4. Red silk fabric with double-headed eagle figure from the Anatolian Seljuk Period
Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin,
https://s-mediacacheak0.pinimg.com/236x/f4/fc/57/f4fc57e5a26d84c45d3020b3950a4e9d.jpg, 20.11.2016.

Anatolian Weaving in the Ottoman Period

After Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul, one of the workshops working under the Ehl-i Hiref (craftsman) and Enderun organizations, which he had established in order to combine art and production together in the palace, was the weaving workshops serving for the palace. Ottoman Palace Weavings had always been different from Anatolian Folk Weavings in terms of their material, technique, colour, pattern and design compositions. Ottoman Palace Weavings were exercised under the control of the palace since their productions were expensive. Ottoman Palace Weavings consisted of examples such as Seraser, Sirenk, Velour, Crimped fabric, Çatma, Velvet, Taffeta (Taffeta and Valâ), Kutnu (kutnî), Çitari, Atlas, Baldachin, Hatayi, Zerbaft (cloth of gold), Şîb, Gezi, Hümâyun, Abani (Ağbâni, Ağabani) (silk kerchief), Selimiye, Üsküdar Çatma. In the designs of Ottoman Classical Period Weavings prepared by Saray Nakkaşhanesi (Painting House of the Palace), instead of straight, vertical and horizontal lines, mostly used patterns were wavy lines, intricately curved branches, rumis and various circle and oval flower and leaf patterns.

The weaving needs of the Ottoman Palace were met from various weaving centres in Thrace and Anatolia. İstanbul, Bursa, Bilecik, Edirne, Amasya, Tokat, Mardin, Alaşehir, Buldan attrack special attention as weaving centres. Moreover, as the empire grew, fabrics were brought to the empire from all over the world, and the fabrics woven within the empire were sent abroad for gifting and trade purposes.

Ottoman Period Hand Weaving was divided into two: palace weaving and public weaving. The art of palace weaving, which developed within the scope of the Ottoman Empire Palace Art, was formed and developed differently from the traditional weavings of Anatolian Yoruks and Turkmens. In the Ottoman palace weaving, weaving examples were presented as early, classical and late periods. While the people were famous for their plain and functional weaving; palace weavings were the indicators of fanciness and splendour. The diversity of hand-wovens in the Ottoman period was to provide the universal balance based on traditional criteria rather than the unity of purpose and belief in the Ottoman society. Despite the Ottomanizing appearance of the country, sanctions on the merchants as well as the technological changes, people of all kinds of beliefs and experiences tried to continue the traditional life and traditional hand weaving. Moreover, different clothing habits were created in the Ottoman society in a way that would indicate regions, beliefs and professions of Muslims, minorities and people of various beliefs and different social levels.

Palace and folk weavings within this period were made under the management and supervision of Enderun and Ahi organizations in order to meet the weaving needs of the palace and the people, and to ensure that they were of a certain quality.

In the late period weavings of the Ottoman Empire, palace weavings lost their traditionalist characteristic in part under the influence of Westernization and commercial influences. Although examples of palace weavings were preserved to a certain point, examples of folk weavings could not be preserved, and some of these examples were taken abroad or disappeared. During this period, although imported fabrics from abroad were of poorer quality, they were preferred instead of traditional hand-wovens because of their price; thus, causing a decrease in the use of traditional weavings.

Ottoman Late Period Weaving started in the beginning of the 18th century and continued until the decline and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Turkish Baroque Rococo Art and Western-influenced fabric patterns were seen in Ottoman Palace Weavings of this period. Miniatures of Nakkaş Levni became visual sources on the fabrics at the time. Significant differences in the material, technique, pattern and design compositions of the fabrics were seen in parallel with the power of the Ottoman Empire. Small flowers or bunches of flowers were used as patterns on the striped/patterned ground in the fabrics of this period. Moreover, since the silk threads brought from Bursa had a quality problem, warps -only warped in Istanbul- were used in Istanbul silk weaving. Sultan III. Selim (1789-1809) also had weaving workshops set up around the mosque which had been built in Üsküdar and brought expert weavers from France. However, it is known that these workshops were burned by the uprising Janissaries. After the technological development in the West, in order to meet the needs of the palace, the Feshane Factory was established in 1835 and the Hereke Fabrika-i Hümayûn (Hereke Factory of Hümayûn) was established in 1844, both of which started to meet the fabric needs of the Ottoman Palace.

Anatolian Weaving in Turkish Republic Period

Founded on July 11, 1933 after the proclamation of the Republic, Sumerbank was privatized in 1987 and shut down in 2002. Nazilli and Adana Cloth Factories were established within Sumerbank, which was the first public investment of the Republic of Turkey. Sumerbank became Turkey's first modern textile company and pioneered the development of this sector. This sector had become cumbersome over the years by not following the developments within the field of textiles in the West and the world close enough, and it was shut down 79 years after its establishment.

Ottoman palace weaving samples, which remained in the country during the Republican period, have been specially protected and exhibited in Topkapı Palace Museum in İstanbul. Anatolian folk weavings have been exhibited and preserved in public and private museums, especially in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul and the Ethnography Museum in Ankara. In the foundation of the Republic, before the establishment of the weaving factories in the country, it is known that weaving looms were produced and distributed to the public in order to revive hand weaving art.

Publications have been made on traditional hand weaving, its training has continued at all levels and researchers as well as researches have been supported in this regard.

The fact that dowry tradition is not valued in today’s world as much as it used to be, that people who are to get married prefer mass-produced weaving examples instead of hand weaving, that merchants who do purchase-and-sale buy cheap weavings from the weaver and sell them expensively, that weavers' children do not continue the family profession, that Anatolian weavings are easily taken abroad are among the main reasons why Anatolian hand weaving is in danger of extinction. However, this situation, which caused the reduction of numbers in hand weavings, also provided artistic appreciation of examples of Anatolian hand weaving. In recent years, as the result of both the encouragement and support of some local governments and local people’s understanding the importance of this issue, Anatolian hand weaving has started to revive in some regions. Geographical indication creates momentum for the local residents.


  • DÖLEN, Emre, Tekstil Tarihi, Teknik Eğitim Fakültesi Yayınları, İstanbul 1992.
  • RORDORF, Günter, Neues Grosses Handbuch der Textilkunde Ein Hand-und Nachschlagebuch für die Praxis Textilkaufmannes und für alle Zweige des Textilfaches, Fachbuchverlag Dr. Pfanneberg.
  • UĞURLU, Aydın, “Klasik Çağ Anadolu Dokuma Sanatı”, İlgi Dergisi, sy. 46, İstanbul, 1986, s. 2-7.
  • UĞURLU, Aydın, “Orta Çağ Anadolu Dokuma Sanatı”, İlgi Dergisi, sy. 48, İstanbul, 1987, s. 2-7.
  • UĞURLU, Servet Senem, “Geleneksel Tekstil Teknikleriyle Yeni Sanatsal Çalışmalar”, ”, Unpublished PhD Dissertation in Arts, Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf Üniversitesi, Güzel Sanatlar Enstitüsü, İstanbul 2018.