No one knows exactly when rug-making began, or where, or even why. Some hypothesize that rugs evolved as a movable substitute for mosaic. Others suggest that carpets developed to fit the domestic needs of nomadic lifestyles. What is known is that for thousands of years rug making has been a tradition in the Middle East and Asia Minor, a dry and mountainous region where nomadic sheep herding provide ready supplies of wool. Though the oldest knotted rug in existence - the Pazyryk rug, discovered in 1949 in southern Siberia - is dated at 500 B.C., its fine craftsmanship suggests that rug making was by that time already an established tradition.
Many consider Persia, the land we now call Iran, to be the historically accepted leader in the making of fine oriental handmade carpets. The oldest intact Persian rug, however, dates only to the early years of the 16th century, the dawn of Persia's Golden Age. From 1501 to 1723, under the gentle patronage of the Safavid Dynasty, rug-making flourished. The art was held in such high esteem that Shah Abbas the Great himself (1587 - 1629) designed carpets. The innovations of the Golden Age-the elaborate central medallions, balanced borders, and floral and animal motifs - remain the standard upon which many Persian city carpets and other rugs around the world are based.