The history of Central Asia presents a constant political and cultural interplay between nomadic and settled peoples. Art museums have rarely displayed the material culture of nomadic peoples, even though their traditions exerted a powerful influence on art and culture. There were many tribal groups in Central Asia, and the Turkmen, Uzbeks, and Kazakhs, among others, all have rich artistic traditions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a particularly strong collection of Turkmen textiles and jewelry; an exploration of these everyday artworks can help us understand the lives and traditions of the Turkmen people.
The art of the Turkmen nomads serves specific practical purposes. Some works marked important life events, such as the ceremonies surrounding birth or marriage. Others were destined for use in portable dwellings or were bartered to townspeople for metal goods, such as dye pots or weapons. Turkmen artists are known for their skills in weaving carpets—largely the work of women artists—and making silver jewelry, which was the work of male artists.