The Babylonian Visceral Labyrinth, Part 3

In the article by Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Sawards Caerdroia 42 (March 2014)  there is the picture of a visceral drawing on a clay tablet which is older than those we have seen before (see related posts below).

Clay tablet with diagram

Clay tablet from Umma of Old Babylonian times, photo courtesy of the Louvre

The clay tablet with the visceral drawings was found in the old Sumerian city of Umma, the today’s Tell Jokha in Iraq. It dates from the time about 1900 – 1600 B.C. and you can now see it in the Louvre under the number AO 6033.
The photo can be found in the cuneiform digital library initiative of the University of California, Los Angeles, under the CDLI number P 386355.

Unfortunately, the tablet is damaged. Nevertheless, the missing lines can be reconstructed perfectly and then show the following plan:

The visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033

The visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033

The alignment reminds very strongly of the so-called Berlin labyrinth on the clay tablet VAT 744 at the Vorderasiatisches Museum of Berlin which is some hundred years younger.

The visceral drawing on tablet VAT 744

The visceral drawing on tablet VAT 744

Despite the resemblance the lines in the visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033 show a completely different labyrinth.
The path (Ariadne’s thread) inside the tablet ascertained from the boundary lines looks thus:

Ariadne's thread in the visceral drawing on AO 6033

Ariadne’s thread in the visceral drawing on AO 6033

Based on these lines I construct a geometrically exact figure consisting of arc elements. The midpoints of them can be arranged on a single line.

Ariadne's thread geometrically correct

Ariadne’s thread geometrically correct

After that I construct the boundary lines around the same midpoints and will obtain the complete labyrinth:

The labyrinth

The labyrinth

The alignment is completely different from the one of the Berlin labyrinth. In the middle there is a kind of a double spiral. Besides there are two turning points. The two sickle-shaped empty areas are remarkable.

Anyway we see an hitherto unknown walk-through labyrinth. Maybe even the oldest one proved so far? In any case, it is older than the example on the tablet of Pylos.

How should one name it? Referring to the proposals of Andreas maybe: The Babylonian Umma labyrinth.

Who would like to draw or build such a labyrinth as a walkable one? The following drawing offers the necessary information. The measurements are to be understood as units. So “1” can be: 1 cm, 10 cm, 60 cm, 1 metre, 1 yard, 1 foot, 2 feet, a step length, a stick and the like.

The layout drawing

The layout drawing

One best goes forward as follows: Fix a line, divide it into 16 parts, mark the mid points of the circles, then make the arcs with a string, wire, circle, tape or the like.  The radii are a multiple of the unity, so R2 means 2 times the unity etc.

The labyrinth can be drawn with compass and pencil on paper or can be scratched as a walkable labyrinth into the sand, strewn with sawdust or laid with stones or similar. The two accesses can be arranged by wish. It would make it easier to begin with the arcs above the line.

Related Posts

3 thoughts on “The Babylonian Visceral Labyrinth, Part 3

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

  2. Pingback: How to Make a Babylonian Visceral Labyrinth (Umma Labyrinth) from a Wunderkreis | blogmymaze

  3. Very nice post again, dear Erwin ! Enriching further the geometrical study of labyrinths by highlighting interesting properties through subtle reorganisation, here in the case of another visually pleasing ‘outsider’…


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