What You Should Know About the History of Berber Rugs
Berber carpets are unique art pieces that have become staples in contemporary interior design. These soft furnishings are timeless and durable, and they provide comfort and warmth to any room.
These rugs are a significant part of Berber culture, and the art of making hand-knotted rugs has been passed down from one generation to the next. Berber rug making goes back thousands of years, and some motifs show up in items dating back to the Neolithic Age. Here are a few more things to know about the origins of these types of rugs.
Berber rugs in history
The motifs of these rugs have similarities with motifs on items from the Neolithic Age in the Mediterranean and the Upper Paleolithic in other parts of Europe. From this, you can infer that Berber rugs are remnants of these ancient periods.
Since Berber tribes were isolated in the Atlas Mountains and had no access to the silk road, other ancient civilizations did not influence them. As such, they were able to keep the originality of their works. These carpets mostly use geometric shapes, which the designers fashion into mosaics. These choices are not arbitrary; the shapes are symbolic in the Atlas mountain people’s language.
Each carpet is a story, one which is unique to the weaver. The rugs’ weavers tell their stories through their work, touching on life stages, significant events during their time, and even generational or historical narratives that matter to their family. Their creations feature symbolisms of nature, and the body—diamonds, crosses, and broken lines are the most frequent representations of these stories.
Who can make rugs in Berber culture?
Making rugs is a traditionally female practice—the mothers in the tribes transmit the craft to their daughters, according to Berber customs. Rug making involves several tasks, from shearing the material to weaving and dyeing. The women take the wool they use from the family sheep, and they spin this by hand into fibers with various thickness and tightness.
Then, they dye the fiber using recipes handed down from their ancestors. Herbs, leaves, fruits, minerals, and spices figure in these traditional recipes, and each family has their preferred colors and dyes. Similarly, tribal groups have their patterns, weaves, and loops.
Some areas of Morocco consider wool as a heavenly gift, and it is said to protect the wearer against evil. As such, producing these wool rugs involve highly technical, precise rituals, and the people handling wool treat it with the utmost respect.
Conclusion: Berber rugs today
Even today, wool rugs are central to the economic life and daily activities of the Berber people. It is an everyday object with various uses—it can be a mattress, a blanket, or an accent piece. Some families are more practical and carry grains or fruits in their woven wool pieces.
The attention to detail and care that Berber weavers put into these rugs make them an ideal present for people who love luxurious, one-of-a-kind items. Today, you do not have to be an ambassador or a prince to enjoy Berber rugs; these pieces of history could be part of your home as well if you know where to find them.
Find exquisite, woven Berber rugs through Atlas Weavers, a fair-trade project showcasing textiles and soft furnishings by indigenous groups from Morocco. Apart from bringing Moroccan rugs to the world, we are also committed to eliminating poverty in the Atlas Mountain region; we reinvest our earnings into the artisan weaving communities where we source our supplies. Browse our store or get in touch with us today for more information.