Carpet weaving is a tradition that harkens all the way back to ancient times. While the exact date of carpet's origin is unknown, most historians agree that humans began developing the art some several thousand years ago.
Why ancient peoples began weaving carpets is a hotly debated topic. Some historians argue that carpets were originally conceived as portable ground covers for nomadic people to protect themselves against the wild elements. Others believe carpets were created purely as artistic and ceremonial pieces for settled groups of people to decorate their homes.
The oldest carpet found to date is the 2,500-year-old Pazyryk Carpet. Discovered in 1949 in the tomb of a Scythian prince in Siberia, the Pazyryk Carpet best demonstrates the level of sophistication and craftsmanship achieved by weavers in 5th century B.C. With its rich colors and images of fearless warriors on horseback, the Pazyryk Carpet is thought to be of Persian or Armenian origin. In fact, most decorative carpets of these times are thought to be from the Armenian highland, which encompasses the border of Turkey and Iran.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages and carpets were considered treasures by royalty. They were so coveted that emperors of India had their own court workshops for weavers to improve their technical and artistic skills. At this point, the presence of carpets in Europe was beginning to grow thanks to bustling trade routes to the East. Oriental rugs hung proudly in French and English palaces and cathedrals, and were considered to be too precious to touch the floor.
The production of carpets in England began with the arrival of 16th century renegade Flemish Calvinists seeking religious asylum. As their woven work grew popular with the elite of British society, local textile workers felt compelled to develop their own carpet skills. Many times their work emulated Oriental style rugs, other times French floral patterns.
The last interesting chapter in the history of carpet is its arrival in America. After gaining independence from England, American entrepreneurs began their own carpet factories throughout New England. Meanwhile, settlers in more rural parts of the country began using their resources to make hook rugs similar to those of Navajo people; typically with design motifs that included seascapes, geometric shapes and animals. Between these settlers' new skills and the factories in the Northeast, beautiful carpets had finally started their path to becoming staples of the modern home.