There is evidence of rugs being made at the time of the New Stone Age, using fleece from sheep and goats. In 1949 a rug, which has been dated at 2500 years old, was found by Russian archaeologists in the Siberian wastelands of Southern Russia. The rug is a Pazyryck rug and is the oldest in the world.
Rugs were first created with the flat weaving method. This is by using simple vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) weaving. This method is still in use to make flat surfaced, ethnic-style rugs. Another method involves the knotting of strands of wool on to a skeleton of warp and weft to create a thicker pile on the surface, making these intricate hand-knotted rugs an art-form.
Samples of Oriental carpets were brought to Europe by Marco Polo in the 11th Century. By the end of the 16th Century carpet weaving had expanded in Europe and one of the earliest carpet factories opened in Wilton, England. In the 1750s Thomas Whitty created Axminster Carpets which was based in his hometown of Axminster and is still in operation today.
Another type of a rug is a rag rug, which as its name suggests, it is made of rags. The earliest rag rug has been dated back to 1863. Unfortunately, not many have survived over the years. This was due to a new rug being made each year and the oldest one in the household being thrown away. Also they were associated with poverty and were not kept longer than they needed to be and unlike quilting and patchwork the craft was not taken up by the Victorians. Today rag rugs are still being made and have become more popular as a craft with the emphasis on the use of recycled materials.
Whichever method is used to create rugs, whether it is flat weaving, rag rugs or the intricate hand knotted rugs, this is certainly one of the great ancient crafts which continues to thrive today.