Antique tribal rugs were woven using geometric patterns with a looser weave and generally only in small formats. The patterns had been handed down for countless generations in an oral tradition until the very early 20th century. Tribal rug patterns are elemental in form and considered symbolic. As they generally had no written history, the rugs and their patterns were very important to the tribal people and became theircultural heritage. Tribal weavers knew the patterns by heart and made variations as they wove. They tended to use full color palettes and dramatic tonal juxtapositions. Collectible tribal rugs still in the market today came mostly from the Caucasus Mountains and the tribal groups of Southwest and Central Persia of the 19th century. They were woven both on the nomadic trail as well as in village settings.
Major styles: Caucasian rugs, Southwest Persian Qashqai, Afshar, Kurdish and Arab Khamseh rugs.