At the base of the Altai Mountains is the Pazyryk Valley. In the 1920’s some of the kurgans or burial mounds that resided there were unearthed. Some of these mounds were over 2000 years old. Within these ancient graves were saddles, ritual burial chariots, countless sculpted and carved figures and tattooed mummies still encased in the icy permafrost. Among the objects was also what is considered to be the oldest carpet in the world – nearly 1600 years old and woven in the style of Armenian and Persian rugs where there is still a stunning weaving tradition even today that is carried on.
The carpet, in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, is still magnificent even in its degraded state and even in photos on the internet! The design is complex and certainly took months or years of looming and knotting to render such a piece as this. Though it bears their name, it is unlikely to have been made by the nomadic Pazyrks and more likely was traded for on the trade routes with China to the east and Central Asia to the southwest. One of the frozen mummies in the kurgans was in a silk tunic that is almost certainly Chinese in origin.
Around the perimeter of the rug are twenty four deer. While the striking center might have drawn your eye to the rug first it is the deer that binds the piece together visually and metaphorically. But I would press and say that it wasn’t a metaphor. These rug weavers who traded with the Pazyrks knew that their wealth and lives depended very deeply on the health and presence of these deer. Those deer were food and their skins were protection in the cold. The grazing deer kept the valleys and meadows fertile and lush and helped them track seasons and water as well. And the deer were eating the grass where their dead were buried and covered in kurgans and so the deer were keepers of their ancestors as well.
There is a ancient history of humans having a lived relationship with the non-human world and honoring the non-human world with their art and way they walk in the world.
Primal Derma is trying to draw on the wisdom of some of these old ways and cultures that relied so deeply on animals for our own health. With a kind of gravitas and gratitude that isn’t often rendered in a world obsessed by the newest.
Thanks for walking slowly here with us in trying to remember the old ways.