Lost Shawl of Gurun

Lost Shawl of Gürün

Research based photography project

Missionary C. Henry Holbrook pictures the remoteness of the town of Gurun located in the Sivas province of Turkey, or Sebastia in the historic Lesser Armenia in 1911 in these words: “The road to Gurun [from Sebastia city] lies literally over ‘the top of the world, climbing from the 1,600 feet level of the Sivas plain to nearly 6,600 feet above sea level. For three whole days, constantly climbs over bare ridges, from the summits of which the view sweeps off in every direction over miles and … of mountain peaks to the blue and hazy horizon; one vast wilderness of barren rock without a sign of human habitation as far as eye can see. But it’s a wilderness view to make one’s blood leap with the exultant joy of boundless freedom.”

At the top of the world it is estimated that Gurunians had been busy trying to become the center of the shawl weaving industry with their top quality products since 15thcentury up until the deterritolarization of the Armenian population during 1915.

A Gurun Shawl is a long, two-sided item used as a multipurpose clothing accessory for both males and females since ancient times. Men would wrap one around their waist and women around their shoulders. As such it’s also used for many other purposes. In the past, the most important items of clothing of the traders were belts made of Gurun shawls starting from 15th century to 1920s. Shawls became famous throughout Europe during the 17th century starting from England, France, Spain and Italy. It was even basic daily apparel in Anatolia, and in France, where it was accepted as an item be worn by nobleman or the wealthy elites because of its established reputation as a fashionable item. The story even has it that Gurun shawls drove Napoleon to distraction such that he prohibited the French from obtaining it. To ridicule the fact, worldwide people would jokingly state that “… a lame Gurunian trader has reached China”.


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Sample of correspondence, 1913
Hovannisian,2004 :315

A dyeing recipe, April 1915
Hovannisian,2004 :314

A company invoice form
Hovannisian,2004 :319

The Gürün Shawl in Cairo
Hovannisian,2004 :307