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On my own behalf

Welcome to the Labyrinth

The topic of this blog is the labyrinth. Under nearly all aspects, I would like to arouse your interest on the fascinating lines and the meaning of this old object. Being an old surveyor I put my focus on the geometrical shape.
A new post should be published about twice a month. Meanwhile I am accompanied by Andreas Frei as coauthor.

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In a blog the single posts (articles) are disposed in reverse order: the latest posts first, the older ones following. The display of the content is thus different from a website where it is always permanent.

Anyone who is looking for something special about labyrinths or just wants to know what he could find on this blog, maybe would like to have an overview.

I can provide this now and offer it as an own page titled Contents.

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I have already elaborated on uninteresting and interesting labyrinths (see related posts, below). Unintersting labyrinths can be generated by simply attaching additional trivial circuits to the outside or inside of smaller labyrinths. Interesting labyrinths cannot be obtained this way. This particularly implies, that in interesting labyrinths the pathway may not enter the labyrinth on the outermost circuit or reach the center from the innermost circuit. The dual of an interesting labyrinth is another interesting labyrinth too.

This is different if we derive the complementary labyrinth of an interesting labyrinth. The resultung labyrinth may very well be an uninteresting labyrinth. Complementary labyrinths exist only for alternating labyrinths with an odd number of circuits. To obtain the complementary, the pattern of the original labyrinth is vertically mirrored without interrupting the connections between the outside or center of the labyrinth with their corresponding circuits. Labyrinths with an odd number of circuits always have a central circuit. When the pattern is mirrored, this circuit remains in position, whilst the other circuits change their positions symmetrically around it.

Figure 1. Mirroring

In a labyrinth with seven circuits, e.g., the central circuit is the one with number 4. After the mirroring, this remains in its position as number 4. The outermost circuit, number 1, transforms to the innermost circuit and obtains number 7, circuit 2 changes to circuit 6, circuit 3 to circuit 5, and vice versa.

Now, if in an interesting labyrinth the pathway first leads to the innermost circuit or reaches the center from the outermost circuit, then the complementary to this labyrinth will be an uninteresting labyrinth. This, because in the complementary, the path will enter the labyrinth on the outermost or reach the center from the innermost circuit. Thus, there exist pairs of complementary labyrinths, both of which are interesting and others in which one of the labyrinths is interesting and the other uninteresting.

Now I want to find out which are the pairs of interesting complementary labyrinths. The website of Tony Phillips provides best material for such a purpose. On one page, HERE, are included the seed patterns (left figures) and the patterns (right figures) of the interesting alternating labyrinths with up to 7 circuits. I therefore reproduce the page in fig. 2 and in the following add some comments to the items indicated with red letters:

Figure 2. Interesting Labyrinths

  • a) In addition to the circuits, Tony also counts the exterior (= 0) and the center (= one greater than the number of circuits) of a labyrinth. He refers to this as the depth of the labyrinth. A labyrinth with depth 4, thus, has three circuits, one with depth 6 has 5 circuits and so on.
  • b) Below the two figures (seed pattern und pattern), in each case the sequence of circuits is listed. This also contains the zero for the exterior and the number for the center, here indicated with red boxes. The true sequence of circuits is the sequence of numbers between these boxes.
  • c) If the labyrinth is self-dual, this is indicated as „s.d.“ after the sequence of circuits.
  • d) If this is not the case, anyway only one of each dual example is shown in the figures. However, the sequence of circuits of the dual not shown is listed in parentheses below the sequence of circuits of the labyrinth shown.
  • e) The patterns are drawn in such a manner that the course of the pathway leads from top right to bottom left. This is different from how I do it. I draw the pattern from top left to bottom right. As a consequence, the labyrinth that corresponds with the pattern by Tony rotates anti-clockwise, whereas in my case it rotates clockwise.
  • f) Now, lets consider all interesting (including very interesting) labyrinths with 7 circuits. Of these, there are 22 (6 of them very interesting) interesting labyrinths. In fig. 2 the seed patterns and patterns of only 14 labyrinths are depicted. The missing 8, however, are duals, represented by the sequences of circuits in parentheses.

Among the interesting labyrinths with 7 circuits, only 2 exist, in which the pathway does not enter the labyrinth on the innermost circuit nor reach the center from the outermost circuit. And these two form the only pair of interesting labyrinths complementary to each other. We already know this pair from the first post of this series. It is the basic type labyrinth (g) and the labyrinth with the S-shaped course of the pathway (h).

Figure 3. Complementary and Interesting Labyrinths

These are self-dual and thus very interesting labyrinths. In the other 20 interesting labyrinths, the complementary in each case is an uninteresting labyrinth.

Thus, there are 42 different alternating labyrinths with one arm and 7 circuits. Among these, there are 8 pairs of interesting dual labyrinths, 6 self-dual very interesting labyrinths, but only 1 pair of interesting complementary labyrinths. In addition, there is no pair of interesting complementary labyrinths with less than 7 circuits.

Pairs of complementary interesting labyrinths seem to be relatively rare and thus something special.

Related Posts:

We take a 7-circuit classical labyrinth and number the single circuits from the outside inwards. “0” stands for the outside, “8” denotes the center. I take this two numbers into the circuit sequence, although they are no circuits. As start and end point they help to better understand the structure of the labyrinth.

Ariadne's thread in the 7-circuit labyrinth

Ariadne’s thread in the 7-circuit labyrinth

The circuit sequence is: 0-3-2-1-4-7-6-5-8

Everybody which already has “trampled” Ariadne’s thread (the path) in the snow knows this: Suddenly there is no more place in the middle, and one simply goes out. And already one has created a walk-through labyrinth. This is possible in nearly all labyrinths.

Then maybe it looks like this:

Ariadne's thread in a walk-through labyrinth

Ariadne’s thread in a walk-through labyrinth

If one wants a more compact labyrinth, one must change the shape. The internal circuits become, in the end, a double spiral. We can make either two separate ways or join them. So we will get a bifurcation.

Just about:

The 7-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The 7-circuit walk-through labyrinth

We will get the following circuit sequence if we take the left way or the fork to the left:
0-3-2-1-4-7-6-5-0

Now we take first the right way or the fork to the right, then the circuit sequence will be:
0-5-6-7-4-1-2-3-0

Because the two rows are written among each other, they simply can be add up together (without the first and the last digit):
8-8-8-8-8-8-8

This means: If I go to the left, I am in the original labyrinth, if I go to the right, I cross the complementary one.

The complementary labyrinth of the 7-circuit labyrinth

The complementary labyrinth of the 7-circuit labyrinth

It has the circuit sequence 0-5-6-7-4-1-2-3-8.

Or said in other terms: The walk-through labyrinth contains two different labyrinths, the original one and the complementary one.

The 7-circuit labyrinth is self-dual. Therefore I only get two different labyrinths through rotation and mirroring as Andreas has described in detail in his preceding posts.

How does the walk-through labyrinth look if I choose a non self-dual labyrinth?

I take this 9-circuit labyrinth as an example:

A 9-circuit labyrinth

A 9-circuit labyrinth

Here the boundary lines are shown.
On the top left we see the original labyrinth, on the right side is the dual to it.
On the bottom left we see the complementary to the original (on top), on the right side is the dual to it.
However, this dual one is also the complementary to the dual on top.

The first 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The first 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The first walk-through labyrinth shows the same way as in the original labyrinth if I go to the left. If I go to the right, surprisingly the way is the same as in the complementary labyrinth of the dual one.

And the second one?

The second 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The second 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The left way corresponds to the dual labyrinth of the original. The right way, however, to the complementary labyrinth of the original.

Now we look again at a self-dual labyrinth, an 11-circuit labyrinth which was developed from the enlarged seed pattern.

An 11-circuit labyrinth in Knidos style

An 11-circuit labyrinth in Knidos style

The left one is the original labyrinth with the circuit sequence:
0-5-2-3-4-1-6-11-8-9-10-7-12

The right one shows the complementary one with the circuit sequence:
0-7-10-9-8-11-6-1-4-3-2-5-12

The test by addition (without the first and the last digit):
12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12

Once more we construct the matching walk-through labyrinth:

The 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth

Again we see the original and the complementary labyrinth combined in one figure. If we read the sequences of circuits forwards and backwards we also see that both labyrinths are mirror-symmetric. This also applies to the previous walk-through labyrinths.

Now this are of all labyrinth-theoretical considerations. However, has there been such a labyrinth already as a historical labyrinth? By now I never met a 7- or 9-circuit labyrinth, but already an 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth when I explored the Babylons on the Solovetsky Islands (see related posts below). Besides, I have also considered how these labyrinths have probably originated. Certainly not from the precalled theoretical considerations, but rather from a “mutation” of the 11-circuit Troy Towns in the Scandinavian countrys. And connected through that with another view of the labyrinth in this culture.

There is an especially beautiful specimen of a 15-circuit Troy Town under a lighthouse on the Swedish island Rödkallen in the Gulf of Bothnia.

A 15-circuit Troy Town on the island Rödkallen

A 15-circuit Troy Town on the island Rödkallen, photo courtesy of Swedish Lapland.com, © Göran Wallin

It has an open middle and the bifurcation for the choice of the way. This article by Göran Wallin on the website Swedish Lapland.com reports more on Swedish labyrinths.

For me quite a special quality appears in these labyrinths, even if there is joined a change of paradigm.

Related Posts

It is not possible to design a complementary counterpart for each labyrinth. The complementary is obtained by horizontally mirroring of the pattern whilst the connections between the entrance, the center and their corresponding circuits in the labyrinth are left uninterrupted. If the entrance and the access to the center are situated on the same side of the axis, this does not work.

Figure 1. Alternating Labyrinth with an even Number of Circuits

Fig. 1 shows this with the example of the alternating, one-arm labyrinth with 6 circuits and the sequence of circuits 3 2 1 6 5 4. As can be seen from the pattern (figure in the middle), the entrance and the access to the center are situated on the same side of the axis. The pathway first leads to the 3rd cricuit and finally reaches the center from the 4th circuit. If we want to mirror this pattern and let the connections with the entrance and the center unbroken, then the lines intersect at the position marked with a black circle. Such a figure is not free of crossroads any more and thus no labyrinth. In alternating labyrinths with an even number of cirucits, therefore, there exist no complementary labyrinths.

Now there are also non-alternating labyrinths with an even number of circuits in which the entrance to the labyrinth and the access to the center lie on the opposite sides of the axis. The labyrinth shown in fig. 2 is such an example and has already been repeatedly discussed in this blog.

Figure 2. Non-alternating Labyrinth with an even Number of Circuits

This non-alternating, one-arm labyrinth with 6 circuits has the sequence of circuits 3 2 1-6 5 4. That is the same sequence of cirucits as in labyrinth shown in fig. 1 with the difference, that the pathway traverses the axis between circuit 1 and 6. So we are here presented a labyrinth with an even number of circuits, but with the entrance and access to the center on the opposite sides of the axis. Despite this, it is not possible to form a complementary labyrinth to this. If we mirror the pattern vertically without interrupting the connections with the entrance and the center, this results in two crossroads (highlighted with black circles).

Thus, complementary counterparts can only be found in alternating labyrinths with an odd number of circuits.

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The Babylonian visceral labyrinths have found entrance in the modern medicine. In quite an unusual way. A labyrinth-like chip serves for the diagnosis of cancer cells in the blood. The labyrinthine arrangement of the fluid channels shows up to be an effective tool to isolate circulating cancer cells in the blood. That means that the curvature and the tortuous route in the labyrinth is especially useful.

Labyrinth-Chip

Labyrinth-Chip, Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan, © Joseph XU, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

What kind of labyrinth is this now?
At first sight it reminds of a medieval labyrinth, as it is the famous Chartres labyrinth. It has ten circuits in three sectors, in one these are eight. They will not be traversed one after the other, but reciprocally. And then it has two accesses: An entrance and an exit. It is a walk-through  labyrinth as we know that of the Babylonian labyrinths. Hence, we have an own, new type. And we see the pathway in the labyrinth, Ariadne’s thread. This reminds us of the Greek myth of the Minotaur, which is to be combated like cancer here.
If the Babylonian visceral labyrinths served for the divination, here the labyrinth serves the medicine.
This reminds me of “Ancient Myths & Modern Uses“, the book about labyrinths of Sig Lonegren.

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Further Links

There are sets of four labyrinths each, from which the labyrinths are in a complementary or dual relationship with each other. This is also expressed in their sequences of circuits. If we write down the sequences of circuits of complementary labyrinths below each other, they add up at each position to One greater than the number of circuits. In fig. 1 I show what this means.

Figure 1. Sequences of Circuits in Complementary Labyrinths

First we write down the sequence of circuits for each of the four patterns. The patterns in the same column are complementary. Next we extract the sequences of circuits of dual labyrinths 2 and 4 and in the line below write the sequences of circuits of dual labyrinths 7 and 5. Now we can add the numbers below each other and will find that at each position they sum up to 6. This is 1 greater than the number of 5 circuits.

Now there is another relationship between the sequences of circuits. This is illustrated in figure 2.

Figure 2. Sequences of Circuits in Dual-Complementary Labyrinths

The sequences of circuits of the dual-complementary labyrinths are mirror-symmetric. Thus, in this case, the labyrinths that are in a diagonal relationship to each other are considered. Labyrinth 5 is the complementary of the dual (4) and the dual of the complementary (7), respectively, i.e. the dual-complementary to labyrinth 2. This connection is highlighted by a black line with square line ends. The sequences of circuits of these labyrinths are also written in black color. If we write the sequence of circuits of labyrinth 2 in reverse order this results in the sequence of circuits of labyrinth 5 and vice versa (black sequences of circuits).
Labyrinth 7 is the complementary of the dual (2) and the dual of the complementary (5), i.e. the dual-complementary to labyrinth 4. This is highlighted by a grey line with bullet line ends. The sequences of circuits of these labyrinths are also written in grey. Also in this case it is true: the sequence of circuits of labyrinth 4 written in reverse order corresponds with the sequence of circuits of labyrinth 7 and vice versa.

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I have written quite in detail about the Babylonian labyrinths. For that I refer to the Related Posts below. Now here it should be a summary.

I have taken most information from the detailed and excellent article of Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Sawards Caerdroia 42 (March 2014) to which I would also like to point here once again.

The findings are in the most different collections and museums worldwide. I use the catalogue number to describe the various clay tablets.

The oldest specimens in angular shape dates back to Old Babylonian times about 2000 – 1700 BC and are to find in the Norwegian Schøyen Collection.

The Rectangular Babylonian Labyrinth MS 3194

The Rectangular Babylonian Labyrinth MS 3194

The Square Babylonian Labyrinth MS 4515

The Square Babylonian Labyrinth MS 4515

Then follows the different more round visceral labyrinths from the Middle Babylonian to the Neo-Babylonian times about 1500 – 500 BC. They are to be found in the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin (VAN… and VAT… numbers), in the Louvre (AO 6033), in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden Leiden (Leiden labyrinth) or come from Tell Barri in Syria (E 3384).

I have numbered the tablets with more figures from the left on top to the right below and present the well visible ones (21 pieces) in a bigger tracing. Some figures are unrecognisable or destroyed. All together we have 48 illustrations.

Then there are another 6 single specimens. They follow here:

Visceral Labyrinths

Visceral Labyrinths

Here the 21 bigger tracings of the well recognisable specimens:

The Visceral Labyrinth on VAT 984

The Visceral Labyrinth on VAT 984

The Visceral Labyrinths on VAN 9447

The Visceral Labyrinths on VAN 9447

The Visceral Labyrinths on E 3384 recto

The Visceral Labyrinths on E 3384 recto

The Visceral Labyrinths on E 3384 verso

The Visceral Labyrinths on E 3384 verso

So we have a total of 56 Babylonian labyrinths, 29 of which are clearly recognisable.

It is common to all 29 diagrams that they show an unequivocal way which is completely to cover. There are no forks or dead ends like it would be in a real maze.

All 29 specimens have a different layout or ground plan and therefore no common pattern.

Everyone (except VAT 9560_4) has two entrances. On the angular labyrinths they are lying in the middle of the opposite sides. On the remaining, mostly rounded specimens they are situated side by side or are displaced.

The Leiden Labyrinth is simply a double spiral. An other special feature is the visceral labyrinth VAT 9560_4. It has only one entrance and a spiral-shaped centre, just as we have that in the Indian labyrinth. It shows perfectly a labyrinth.

The Mesopotamian divination labyrinth could also have a closed middle (and therefore only one entrance) and the loops run in simple serpentines.

The remaining 24 specimens have all a much more complicated alignment with intertwined bends and loops.

The 27 unreadable specimens are presumably structured alike. And maybe there are still more clay tablets awaiting discovery?

We know nothing about the meaning of the angular specimens. The remaining 27 more rounded specimens are visceral labyrinths.

The visceral labyrinths show the intestines of sacrificial animals as a pattern for diviners, describing how to interprete them for oracular purposes in the extispicy. From there it is also to be understood that they should look very different. This explains her big variety. And also again her resemblance. They represent rather an own style than an own type.

The Babylonian labyrinths come from an own time period, from another cultural sphere and follow a different paradigm than the usual Western notion of the labyrinth. They are above all walk-through labyrinths. However, in our tradition we also know walk-through labyrinths, especially the Wunderkreis.

A Wunderkreis in Babylonian style

A Wunderkreis in Babylonian style: The logo for the gathering of the Labyrinth Society TLS in 2017), design and © Lisa Moriarty

Related Posts

It is known that there are 8 alternating labyrinths with 1 arm and 5 circuits (see “Considering Meanders and Labyrinths”, related posts, below). Of these, four are not self-dual. These four all are in a relationship to each other via the duality and complementarity (see “The Complementary versus the Dual Labyrinth”, related posts, below). The other four labyrinths are self-dual.

I had already pointed to the relationship between complementary and self-dual labyrinths (see “The Complementary Labyrinth”, related posts, below). Here I want to elaborate on it further. For this purpose I use the same form of diagram I had already used in my previous post (see “The Complementary versus the Dual Labyrinth”). I also use the same numbers of the labyrinths according to the numbering of Arnol’d’s meanders (see “Considering Meanders and Labyrinths”), that underlie them.

Figure 1. Labyrinths 1 and 6

The first of the Arnol’d’s labyrinths, number 1, is self-dual. In the diagram, the dual is situated in the same row, the complementary in the same column with the original labyrinth. The dual of number 1 is again number 1 (what actually is the meaning of selfdual). The complementary of number 1 is number 6. And – of course – is the dual to the complementary again number 6. So in the case of self-dual labyrinths, we only captured two different labyrinths, whereas it were four in the case of not self-dual labyrinths.

Thus, two more labyrinths are still missing. We need another diagram to capture labyrinths number 3 and number 8 (fig. 2).

Figure 2. Labyrinths 3 and 8

And, indeed, these two are complementary to each other. So in self-dual labyrinths, only two different labyrinths are in a relationship to each other.

Here the question arises: Do there also exist self-complementary labyrinths? Up to now we have not yet found such a labyrinth. So let us remember, what self-dual imples. The patterns of the original and self-dual labyrinths are self-covering. In fig. 3 I show what that means. The two patterns in the same row are dual. If we shift them together, we can easily see, what I mean.

Figure 3. Self-dual patterns are self-covering

Thus, self-complementary would imply that the original and complementary pattern would also be self-covering.

Figure 4. Complementary patterns are not self-covering

Fig. 4 shows, that even though there is a certain similarity between these two patterns, they are not self-covering. In my opinion there are no self-complementary labyrinths. This is because vertical mirroring with uninterrupted connections to the entrance and center modifies the sequence of circuits. This, however, woult have to remain unaltered.

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