Original Research: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Pre-Islamic religious motifs (550 BC to 651 AD) on Iranian minor art with focus on rug motifs

Abouali Ladan, Jake Kaner
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a8341 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.8341 | © 2023 Abouali Ladan, Jake Kaner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2022 | Published: 24 March 2023

About the author(s)

Abouali Ladan, SIVA School of Design DeTao, Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, Shanghai, China
Jake Kaner, Nottingham School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom


This article reviewed the influence of pre-Islamic religions such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism on decorative elements of ancient Persian rugs. The article then evaluated the effect of the Islamic religion on Persian rugs. This was examined through extant evidence from pre–Islamic empire artefacts and publications in Persian carpet history, iconography and religious studies. Using spiritual motifs on some ancient rugs results from the important position of rugs in ancient Iranians’ lives. Believing the existence of religious motifs on Persian carpets is because the first carpet in history (Pazyryk) was attributed to the ancient Achaemenians, decorated with symbolic motifs from Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. Pazyryk shows how rug-weaving evolved during the Achaemenids, and it represented spiritual foundations through visual concepts. This article reviewed the symbolic Persian rug motifs from ancient religions through Pazyryk, with support from museum collections. With the emergence of religions, these effects are seen in all aspects of life, including the production of rug design.

Contribution: The main contribution of this research was that it investigated the effects of religion on Persian art focusing on the Persian rug. The findings showed that religion had directly influenced the decorative motifs of the Persian rug among high-class families that might have cascaded into visual elements found on commoners’ rugs.


Iran; pre-Islam; ancient religions; Persian rug; decorative motifs; mithraism; zoroastrianism.


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