The Russian Labyrinths (Babylons) on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea

According to Wikipedia there are in all about 35 labyrinths in the Solovetsky Islands in the Onega Bay of the White Sea in the  Arkhangelsk Oblast (Russia), about 500 km to the north of St. Petersburg and 150 km to the south of the polar circle.

The Labyrinth on the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island

The Labyrinth on the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island, Source: Wikipedia, Photo © Vitold Muratov 2013

How old are they, who has built them, what was the purpose? There are many speculations about that (see the Further Links below). I do not want to take part in it.
I only want to find out how they look like, which type of labyrinth they are. I have found enough indications. There are several photos which reveal a part of the labyrinths quite well, unfortunately, not completely.

On the Internet I have found the following graphics from a book published in 1927 by Nikolai Vinogradov (historian, ethnologist and folklorist, 1876 – 1938).

Graphics of a stone setting

Graphics of a stone setting

In Hermann Kern’s book “Labyrinths” I have found the photo of a petroglyph on the island Skarv in the Stockholm archipelago (Sweden), presumably from the 18th/19th century.

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island, Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, fig. 583 (German edition); Photo: Bo Stiernström, 1976

Compared to the graphics above the labyrinth is mirrored and the double spiral has a circuit less.

The labyrinths, called Babylons in the local dialect, have been made in the same way as the Scandinavian Troy Towns, probably at the same time and presumably served similar purposes.
Nevertheless, the layout is completely different. There are none of the well-known 11- or 15-circuit Cretan labyrinths which can be made from the enlarged seed pattern.

They belong to the walk-through labyrinths. These have a double spiral in the middle and labyrinthine circuits round two turning points. They can have two accesses or only one, however, with a bifurcation.

The hints, the Babylons could be seen as part of a cult of the dead and would show two snakes winding into each other, well explain the figure. They could also have been put on as a sort of piece of art.

There appear two spirals interlocking into each other. In a geometrical figure with semicircles around different centres they can be constructed as follows:

Blue and red spirals

Blue and red spirals

Both lines can be drawn well in one go and freehand: You will begin in the middle, turn to the right, circling once around, then in a larger turn outwardly from the right side to the left, from there inwards back to the right side. The red line ends her, the blue returns one more time to the left, circling inwards.
When you know how to draw each line, try to draw one in the other. Best begin with the blue line and leave enough space between the lines. Then put the red line in between.
That sounds complex, and it is. But best of all try several times with a pencil on a sheet of paper.

The result should look like thus:

The red spiral inside the blue one

The red spiral inside the blue one

For a labyrinth laid of stones these semicircular or elliptical curves can relatively simple be realised.

Best of all one starts in the middle. There one can arrange most easily the thickening of the ends and the interpieces. Then the remaining lines follow in steady distances.

Step 1 and 2

Step 1 and 2

One makes three semicircles downwards (step 1), and four semicircles upwards (step 2). Thus the double spiral in the middle is built.

Step 3 and 4

Step 3 and 4

Then I add five semicircles on top (step 3). There are five free ends on the left side, and seven on the right. These I elongate to the sloped line at right and at left (step 4).

Step 5 and 6

Step 5 and 6

In step 5 I connect both outermost free ends on the left and on the right side so with each other that in the middle a gap remains for the entrance. In step 6 the remaining free ends are connected parallel to the curves just made before. The innermost free end on each side will be the turning point.

It is noteworthy that the limitation lines do not overlap like they doe in the Cretan labyrinth. In spite of the bifurcation the way through the whole figure is unequivocal and follows the typical “labyrinthine” rhythm.

The construction elements

The construction elements

Even if the Babylons were not put on so geometrically precisely, nevertheless, these geometrical features show the essential internal structure and let them count to the Wunderkreise. I would like to call them Babylonian Wunderkreise to discern them from the Wunderkreise with two accesses side by side like we see that in the Zeidner Wunderkreis.

The Babylons are related to the Babylonian Labyrinths through the double spiral in the middle and the unequivocal way that leads to it, even if there are two opposite entrances.

Related Posts

Further Links


7 thoughts on “The Russian Labyrinths (Babylons) on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea

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  5. Pingback: How to get a Walk-Through Labyrinth | blogmymaze

  6. Pingback: How to make a Babylonian Wunderkreis, Part 1 | blogmymaze

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