The Pazyryk Rug is believed over 2500 years old and (arguably) of Armenian origin

The world’s oldest surviving hand-knotted tufted pile carpet is the Pazyryk rug. It was found in 1949 in the ancient tomb of a Scythian (kurgan) nobleman in the Pazyryk Valley of the Altai Mountains in Siberia. Thought to date from the 5th Century BC, the rug had been frozen in ice and it was very well preserved, being almost perfectly intact bar one corner.

The Pazyryk Rug is now housed and preserved in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in Russia. It is considered by many experts, including Ulrich Schurmann—the pre-eminent authority on ancient carpets—to be of specifically Armenian origin. Conflicting opinions exist however, suggesting it is of Scythian origin and probably woven by the nomadic tribes living in the steppes area where it was found.

Pazyryk rug the world's oldest Persian / Armenian rug dated from the 5th century BC

The original vibrance of the colours and fine detail in this rug can only be imagined after a 2500 year entombment

Woven using hand-carded and hand-spun wool, dyed using natural vegetable dyes, the beautifuly detailed rug must have been very brilliantly coloured when it was created some 2500 years ago. Today, due to its age, conditions in the tomb, and the subdued lighting in the museum designed to avoid light damage to this irreplacable artefact, the vibrance of the original colours can only be imagined.

The middle field of the rug has a red ground and 24 small, decorative squares depicting the same diagonal cross shaped 4-stemmed flower design in gold, light and dark blue, again on a red ground. Each square is separated and borderd by the same narrow white framed bands with repeating groups of blue, yellow and red small squares or dots. A narrow band using the same colours borders the middle field of 24 squares.

The first broad decorative band surrounding the middle field contains a row of yellow squares, again with narrow with cut-off corners on a red ground. These yellow squares contain mythical Gryphons within a dark-blue jagged frame, each with the body and tail of a lion, a backward looking eagle’s head and beak, and wings standing upright.

The next outer broad band shows 6 red grazing stags with dark blue dorsal stripe along their backs, yellow antlers and body spots against a blue / green background on each of the 4 sides of the band.

The following outer band is narrower, and shows the same design as the cross-shaped squares in the middle field, this time on a yellow ground colour with sky-blue flowers and red or dark blue sepals and petal veins in dark blue.

28 horses and horsemen decorate the widest border of the Pazyryk Rug

The Pazyryk Rug horsemen border from the world's oldes rug from 5th - 3rd century BC

The next band is the broadest and the most interesting. Set on a red ground it shows 28 light grey superbly decorated horses and horsemen following each other on a red ground—7 on each row. Some horsemen are mounted, while others are on foot behind the horse so the decorative dark blue, yellow and red tasseled felt or tufted carpet saddle pad breast-plate and bridle / reins show.

The horsemen are abstract in style, either mounted or marching beside their horse holding the reins, wearing gold / orange hood-shaped helmets with chin straps, knee-length white, red and blue braid-trimmed coats, close-fitting long trousers and ankle-length boots. The horses are all very upright muscular looking animals, with yellow mains, plaited with ribbons and sporting feathers on their forelocks and plaited, beribboned tails.

The last band shows the same Gryphon/Griffin motif again.