The term 'kilim' originates from the Persian Gelīm where it means 'to spread roughly', perhaps of Mongolian origin. The Turkish name is kilim. Turkish word sometimes used to describe rugs without pile. It more precisely refers to rugs woven in slit tapestry weave made in the traditional rug producing areas of the Middle East.
Like pile carpets, kilim have been produced since ancient times. The explorer Mark Aurel Stein found kilims dating to at least the fourth or fifth century CE in Hotan, China: "The weave is almost identical with that of modern kilims, and has about fourteen threads of warp and sixteen threads of weft to the inch. The pattern consists of narrow stripes of blue, green, brownish yellow, and red, containing very small geometric designs. With this one exception, so peculiarly preserved, there are probably very few over a century old."
Kilim simply is a flat woven carpet or a kind of rug without any pile or knotted fluff: a coarse, thin handmade carpet. This carpet has different names in different languages. For instance in Afghanistan it is called “kilim”, in Ukraine “Palas”, in Caucasia “Liat”, In Syria and Lebanon it is called “Chilim” and in Iran “Gelim”.
“Flat weave” is another name for kilim which was used in past. When we come to know Scandinavian, Polish-Romanian and Hungarian kilims, it is hard to believe that the origin of these traditional handmade is desert dwellers of Africa, Central Asia or South and Central America. Hardness of season migration, as well as difficulty of pastorals, or hard life in desert, has made no effect to process these crafts.
Incomparable culture of kilim weaving is an answer to the basic needs of farmers and migrants who look for dry and carpeted tent and also warmer bedding.
Weaving has been continuously developed in various regions and times. There are some documents about kinds and quality of weaving, written in many historical sources such as Iliad of Homer and Bible. Drawings on coffins, discovered Near Nile River (Egypt), are good reasons that images and different process of weaving oldness, are related to some 1000 years B.C. Pastorals and breeding of sheep, goat, horse and camel guaranteed supply of wool and raw materials for weaving. Preparing dyes constantly became richer by plant growing and discovering of plant and animal sources.
As some wooden tools of weaving have been buried and destroyed by time, we cannot estimate the real age of weaving; we can only estimate it by the stone tools, which have been remained since.
Many different kilims belonging to the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. are very remarkable specimens of the first weavings in East; so it could surely be said that, this region is the first center of kilim weaving; but it would not be known that, how much the ancient traditional techniques of kilim weaving have been developed throughout the world. In the past, only the woolen yarns were used in kilims weaving, so it became more flexible and specially fine and smooth. Nowadays, pile grades of single yarns used in kilims , are usually “3 to 5”, and those kilims woven with double skein yarns are stronger.
Considering the Developed civilization of Anatolian (especially at the 6th century B.C.), could assume that, they are accustomed to kilim weaving and even caused to new styles of weaving come into existence. One of its reasons was exchanging experiences of different methods in social common life. One of the oldest carpets remained, is weft warping kilim supposed to have Ottoman’s origin. Kilim weaving was highly developed between the 7th and 18th centuries. Seljuk, Ottoman, Mongol, Safavid, Mamluk, and Barbarians of North Africa were supporters of this art.
In the past, kilim weaving had an important role in women’s life and it was the major part of their dowry and also a source of income. So brides had to learn this craft; of course, it must be considered, that weaving has only been allocated to woven and yet it is one of their routine tasks of tribe women.
Kilims have greatly changed during centuries, i.e., more marriages among different tribes, make different styles mixed together.
It is obvious, that the reasons of kilim weaving have been vastly changed, in recent years; cultural motives and personal usage of weaving gave its place to benefits of trading. A glance at various kilims of different regions, either old or new, shows that the original kilims have their own special place, as before.