Oldest carpet
Pazyryk rug
2,400–2,500 year(s)
Russian Federation ()

The oldest surviving pile carpet is thought to be the Pazyryk rug, which was excavated almost intact from a semi-frozen burial tomb in the Altai Mountains of Siberia and estimated to date from the 5th-4th century BCE. The rug, now on display at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, was hand-knotted, mostly likely in Armenia or Persia, by skilled craftspersons capable of an intricacy of 360,000 symmetrical knots per square metre (232 per square inch).

The almost-perfectly preserved rug was radio-carbon-dated to 2,400–2,500 years old. Owing to microbes and insects eating their natural, keratinous fibres, woolen carpets are particularly susceptible to deterioration; while floor coverings were likely to have been in use prior to 1000 BCE, only in very rare circumstances do ancient specimens survive to the present day. This example - measuring 183 x 200 cm (6 x 6 ft 6 in) - was preserved in a burial mound built for a prince of Altai near Pazyryk in Siberia, south of the modern city of Novosibirsk, Russia, and located at an altitude of 5,400 ft (1,645 m) above sea level. The tomb was raided and emptied of its precious grave goods although the carpet was left behind; as thieves failed to seal up the opening behind them, the carpet became exposed to the elements and was frozen, protected for millennia under a sheet of ice.