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This prayer rug is fascinating for many reasons. Firstly it was woven in Shirvan, an area that was predominantly Muslim. Although early Russian census data show that Armenians inhabited parts of Shirvan and Kuba districts, they were minority populations and there is little reason to believe that they ever were the most important weaving group in these areas. Nevertheless, there are a number of Armenian prayer rugs from these areas.

Secondly there is an Islamic date of 1897. Use of an Islamic date does not preclude Armenian provenance. Even after the Russians extended Christian dominion over most of the Caucasus, Islamic dates were standard in areas controlled by either Turks or Persians. They were ordinarily used at that time by Christians as well.

And lastly, included in this rug’s design is a small intricate motif woven discretely into a side margin of the field that represents a woman with a Christian cross over her head. The weaver seemingly portrayed herself wearing a dress, an apron, and a scarf. By connecting a tiny cross to her head, this weaver was asserting that the cross represented her as a Christian and the rug as a prayer rug. 5'3" x 3'8"

Rare Armenian Shirvan Prayer Rug (1897)