The long Mediterranean coast of the south of Turkey stretches from the Gulf of Iskenderun in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west. In most places the shoreline is narrow, bordered by the chain of the Taurus Mountains or its secondary ranges, usually equally rugged. For centuries much of this land was accessible only by sea due to inhospitable intervening terrain and the scarcity of passable roads. The Cilician Gates formed the most frequently used pass over the mountains which was used by all the major conquerors. In the meantime the mountains were the protected home to various clans, mainly Yoruk or Turkmen, who drove herds of goats and sheep between summer pastures in the highlands and winter pastures in the valleys. The shore was very sparsely inhabited until very recent times when tourism and the flight from the cities of the interior to the shore resulted in a population boom and the consequent devastation of natural surroundings in places where holiday villages and tourist facilities are built.
Relatively well-paid employment in the tourism sector may at first be seen as a death knell for the weaver’s trade, but it has been noted that visitors are interested in buying locally produced goods so there is a trend that may result in even finer products.
Located at the crossroads between Anatolia and the Arab world, the Adana region produces large kilims of two halves, many characterized by large central medallions joined together. Also produced are small kilims with a large variety of designs, which may reflect the interaction of the many cultures that have left their mark in the area.
Historians tell us that the first known inhabitants were the Hurrians whose kingdom of Kizzawatna flourished ca. 1900 BC, followed by the Hittites who, in addition to other accomplishments, raised sheep for wool. Luwians, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Macedonians of Alexander the Great, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Armenians and Frankish Crusaders also came here, some staying briefly, some for longer periods. Turkish tribes began to infiltrate in the 11th century, with the Ramazanoglullari clan gaining control in the 1350s. The region was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 but unruly nomadic clans long resisted orders to settle until compelled to do so by force of arms. During the American Civil War in the 1860s - when the North blockaded the South and stopped southern cotton from reaching Europe - English, French and German companies began to grow cotton in the suitable Adana climate. Perhaps some glimmers of this turbulent past may be detected in the diversity of Adana kilim designs?
Since this is a cotton-growing region, cotton is often used for warps and in patterns where the white of cotton serves to accentuate adjacent colors. Bright red, pink and orange hues are common and new kilims are usually sun-faded before marketing in order to soften the colors. The elibelinde motif is often used as are the tree-of-life and bird symbols. Cicim and zili variations are also produced in this region.
Attaleia was the name given to the city known today as Antalya by the Pergamene King Attalus Philadelphus II who added this region to his Kingdom of Pergamom. He built the Attaleia port west of Perge to serve this city and the hinterland, thus making the harbor of nearby Olbia redundant, quickly forcing it into obscurity. This period, however, is regarded as recent in local terms since the region’s past goes back millennia into prehistoric times. Archaeological finds in the Karain Cave located 25 km NW of Antalya have been dated to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages, or, in other words, from a period some 2 million years ago to the Bronze Age which is dated at 3500-1000 BC. During this incredibly long existence there were countless cultures that held sway here, each in some way contributing to the evolving life-style. According to some sources, for example, in the years between 1900 and 1400 B.C. the region belonged to the Arzawan Kingdom which, at times, probably paid tribute to the Hittites.
Attaleia was in Pamphylia, a province that changed hands in the internecine wars waged by the successors of Alexander of Macedon. In the ensuing anarchy the coastal area became a roost of robbers and pirates. These were temporarily crushed by Rome, but they were not extirpated and the region periodically returned to piracy. Clans living in the Taurus Mountains towering above the narrow littoral did not readily recognize any authority other than that of their own chiefs who were not averse to plunder, but their women did weave beautiful kilims and other textiles. These old Antalya kilims woven with fine wool and cotton are now rather hard to find and, unfortunately, the tradition of excellence in weaving did not survive unscathed because today’s kilims are deemed coarse and have little intricacy of design. The very simplicity of design and the light-to-medium color palette, however, combine to present a certain attraction for contemporary décor.
Built on the site of the ancient city of Telmessus, Fethiye is a summer resort for tourists who come not only for the sea, sun and sand but also for the many historic sites in the area. Fethiye-Telmessus lies in the ancient land known as Lycia, though its natives called themselves Termilae, the name Lycian given to them by Greek writers and thus readily adopted by the West. It appears highly probable that the name Lycia is derived from ‘Lukka’, a race numbered in Egyptian records among the ‘Sea Peoples’ and noted for their early reconciliation of the ideals of national loyalty and autonomy of the city, an indication of superior political genius. This permitted the Lycians to maintain their distinctive national culture, including language and script, until the 4th century B.C. when it began to be replaced by encroaching Greek.
The natives of contemporary Fethiye, as it has evolved today, appear to be pulled both by the land and by the sea, so it is irresistible to speculate whether the main characteristic design featured in local kilims is a subconscious expression of this dichotomy. This design consists of a very plain sparsely decorated central field joining two intricately worked, mirror-image sections of equal ‘weight’ and visual impact. The center is usually woven in plainweave and in red or pink colors, with a central floating medallion or a delicate symmetric scatter of small diamond symbols occasionally included. Thus perhaps the center represents the weaver’s folk torn, or bridging the gap, between the cultures of the land and the sea. Most Fethiye kilims are made in plainweave or slitweave, with a dark palette used for the sections adjoining the central field, but both the cicim and zili techniques are also used here.