A Babylonian 9 Circuit Visceral Labyrinth

While dealing with the Babylonian labyrinths in the detailed and excellent article of Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Saward’s Caerdroia 42 (March 214) I also saw the following illustrations of sacrificed sheep’s guts. They are all different and served as patterns for extispicy.
They look similar to labyrinths, because they are depicted as one single uninterrupted line. Nevertheless, they have no center, rather two entrances/exits which mostly lie side by side. One could call them walk-through labyrinths or “prelabyrinthine”.

Clay tablets with diagrams of sheep's guts

Clay tablets with diagrams of sheep’s guts

To our today’s usual Western notion a labyrinth is a figure with one single path free of crossings leading to the centre and back again.

Does a relationship to “our” labyrinth exist in these intestinal loops or can they possibly be transformed into such?
This works, and as an example I choose the well recognizable drawing on the left clay tablet E 3384 (marked with a red cross).

Note from September 2017: Meanwhile I finished a drawing named E 3384 r_8 for the template.

Drawings from the clay tablet E 3384 recto

Drawings from the clay tablet E 3384 recto

Template for a visceral labyrinth

Template for a visceral Labyrinth

In it I determine the path sequence of the side by side lying intestinal loops and number them from the left to the right. The entrance lies in the middle and on the right side I leave the figure.

The layout of the visceral labyrinth

The layout of the visceral labyrinth

The pattern of the Labyrinth thus becomes visible. I read the order in which the single loops will be passed through: 5-6-9-2-3-8-7-4-1-10.

Using this path sequence I construct a closed, more round labyrinth in which the way ends in the centre.

Conversion of the path sequence into a closed round labyrinth

Conversion of the path sequence into a closed round labyrinth

I get a labyrinth with three turning points and nine circuits. Now this can still be reshaped by twisting and shifting the turning points. I can also choose a bigger middle and straighten the figure more centrally to the perpendicular bisectors of the sides.
Then it looks like this:

The visceral labyrinth in Knidos style

The visceral labyrinth in Knidos style

In front of us we have a new, hitherto unknown labyrinth. The path sequence is: 0-5-6-9-2-3-8-7-4-1-10. I walk directly into the internal area of the labyrinth and  I also go round the centre very quickly with 0-5-6-9. Then I walk outwardly and through the whole internal area with -2-3-8-7-4. From here I come to the outermost circuit once again and then with a big jump I arrive at the centre: -1-10. The alignment seems to be very dynamic and with a lot of movement. One should feel that when walking the labyrinth.

Who is the first to build such a labyrinth?

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6 thoughts on “A Babylonian 9 Circuit Visceral Labyrinth

  1. Pingback: How would the Classical Labyrinths look as Babylonian Visceral Labyrinths? | blogmymaze

  2. Pingback: The Babylonian Labyrinths: An Overview | blogmymaze

  3. Dear Erwin
    I am pleased, you see in the original visceral figure the pattern of a labyrinth. I would use the same approach. However, when transforming the pattern to the labyrinth, you lost the 10th circuit. The matching labyrinth should look almost like yours but with an additional (trivial) 10th circuit at the inside.


    • Dear Andreas,
      you are right. But as you mention also, the 10th circuit is not absolutely neccessary. To get a better “feeling” I felt free to leave it away.


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