Oldest carpet

A prehistoric Scythian tomb in Siberia contained the oldest surviving carpet in the world.

VincentKeers, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pazyryk burials in southwestern Siberia date back two and a half millennia. They are exceptionally well preserved. Some time not too long after the tombs were closed, water leaked in and froze, leaving the whole burial site encased in permafrost. This kept the contents in excellent condition until it was rediscovered a little under a hundred years ago.

Several of my posts mention how rare it is to find ancient textiles (first clothes, proto-knitting, oldest shoe) because of how fast they degrade. The vibrant and detailed carpet that is pictured above survived only because it was literally frozen in ice. It is the oldest surviving carpet in the world.

The carpet’s animal motif is consistent with the other contents of these tombs: the human remains are covered in tattoos of deer, goats, donkeys, griffin-like creatures, and others, and a few horses were buried there too. This makes sense because the Pazyryk were extremely wealthy nomads and horse-traders, and there was probably some religious or ceremonial significance too. Later Scythian art still used a lot of animal figures, and even influenced ancient art styles from Greece to China.

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