Archive for the ‘History’ Category

In addition to the universally known labyrinth of Chartres and the less popular labyrinth of Reims a third, much less known, very interesting (interesting and self-dual) medieval labyrinth with 4 arms and 11 circuits has been preserved. This is sourced from a manuscript that is stored in the municipal library of Auxerre. Therefore I have named it as Type Auxerre.

At the end of this series I want to show these three labyrinths and their complementaries.

In the three following figures I start with the original labyrinth (image on top left).

From this I obtain the pattern by unrolling the Ariadne’s Thread of it (image on top right).

Then I mirror the pattern vertically without interrupting the connections to the exterior and to the center. This results in the pattern of the complementary labyrinth (image on bottom right).

Then I curl in this pattern to obtain the complementary labyrinth (image on bottom left).

Fig. 1 shows this procedure with the example of the labyrinth of Auxerre. This labyrinth is not recorded in Kern [1]. The image of the original labyrinth was taken from Saward [2] who sourced it from Wright [3].

Figure 1. Labyrinth of Auxerre and Complementary

Fig. 2 shows the labyrinth of Reims and the complementary of it. The image of the original labyrinth was sourced from Kern [1].

Figure 2. Labyrinth of Reims and Complementary

Finally, the labyrinth of Chartres and it’s complementary are presented in fig. 3. The image of the original labyrinth was sourced from Kern [1].

Figure 3. Labyrinth of Chartres and Complementary

With these considerations I wanted to point out that three historical labyrinths exist with a similar degree of perfection as Chartres. Together with their complementaries we now have present six very interesting labyrinths with 4 arms, 11 circuits and a similar degree of perfection.

[1] Kern, H. Through the Labyrinth. Prestel, Munich 2000.
[2] Saward J. Labyrinths and Mazes. Gaia, London 2003.
[3] Wright C. The Maze and the Warrior. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2001.

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Just like the labyrinth from Ravenna, the Wayland’s House labyrinth is also a historical type of labyrinth with 4 arms and 7 circuits. There exist even two different Wayland’s House labyrinths (figure 1).

Figure 1. The Two Wayland’s House Labyrinths


I have named them as Wayland’s House 1 and Wayland’s House 2. Wayland’s House 1 first appeared in a manuscript of the 14th century, Wayland’s House 2 in a manuscript of the 15th century, both from Iceland. This can be easily looked up in Kern. In the following I refer to Wayland’s House 1.

In this type of labyrinth, the pathway does not enter on the first circuit and does not reach the center from the last circuit either. Therefore it is an interesting labyrinth. And also the complementary of it is an interesting labyrinth. This, however, is not the most important reason for why I present this type of labyrinth and its’ relatives here. Whereas no existing examples of any relative of the Ravenna labyrinth are known, there exists a contemporary type of labyrinth for each, the dual, complementary and complementary-dual of the Wayland’s House labyrinth.

Figure 2 shows the patterns of the original Wayland’s House labyrinth (a), the dual (b), complementary (c) and complementary-dual (d) labyrinths.

Figure 2. The Relatives of the Wayland’s House Type – Patterns

The original (a) and dual (b) both are interesting labyrinths. The complementaries of them, (c) and (d), are likewise interesting labyrinths.

Figure 3 shows the labyrinths corresponding to the patterns in their basic form with the walls delimiting the pathway shown on concentric layout and in clockwise rotation.

Figure 3. The Relatives of the Wayland’s House Type – Basic Forms

The relatives of the Wayland’s House type (a) are three of the so-called neo-medieval labyirnth types (there are other neo-medieval types of labyrinths too). These relatives are: dual (b) = „Petit Chartres“, complementary (c) = „Santa Rosa“, and complementary-dual (d) = „World Peace“ labyrinth.

So these contemporary types of labyrinths can be easily generated simply by rotating or mirroring of the pattern of Wayland’s House. This having stated I do not mean to pretend, these types of labyrinths have intentionally or knowingly been derived in such a way from the Wayland’s House type. Rather, available information suggests that they were created in a naive way, i.e without their designers having known about this relationship with the Wayland’s House type labyrinth. Nevertheless, actually, these modern neo-medieval labyrinths are the relatives of Wayland’s House.

The Wayland’s House labyrinth at first glance has some similarities with the Chartres type labyrinth. However it is not self dual and its course of the pathway is guided by an other principle yet. And this applies to its relatives too. Therefore the choice of the name „Petit Chartres“ to me seems inconvenient. It seems like this name was chosen because this type of labyrinth originally was designed in the Chartres-style. So this type seems to have been named after its style.

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Among labyrinths with mulitple arms it is also common that one labyrinth is interesting and the complementary to it is uninteresting. An example for this is the labyrinth of the type Ravenna (figure 1).

Figure 1. The Labyrinth of Ravenna

This labyrinth has 4 arms and 7 circuits. The pathway enters it on the innermost circuit and reaches the center from the fifth circuit. It is, thus, an interesting labyrinth. This type of labyrinth has been named after the example laid in church San Vitale from Ravenna. What is really special in this example is the graphical design of the pathway. This is designed by a sequence of triangles pointing outwards. The effect is, that the direction from the inside out is strongly highlighted. This stands in contrast to the common way we use to approach a labyrinth and seems just an invitation to look up the dual of this labyrinth. Because the course of the pathway from the inside out of an original labyrinth is the same as the course from the outside into the dual labyrinth.

I term as relatives of an original labyrinth the dual, complementary, and complementary-dual labyrinths of it. In fig. 2 the patterns of the Ravenna-type labyrinth (a, original), the dual (b), the complementary (c), and the complementary-dual (d) of it are presented.

Figure 2. The Relatives of the Ravenna-type Labyrinth – Patterns

The original (a) and the dual (b) are interesting labyrinths. The complementaries of them are uninteresting labyrinths, because in these the pathway enters the labyrinth on the outermost circuit (c) or reaches the center from the innermost circuit (d). The dual of an interesting labyrinth always is an interesting labyrinth too, the dual of an unintersting is always uninteresting labyrinth too.

Figure 3 shows the labyrinths corresponding to the patterns in their basic form with the walls delimiting the pathway on concentric layout and in clockwise rotation. Presently, I am not aware of any existing examples of a dual (b), complementary (c) or complementary-dual (d) to the Ravenna type labyrinth (a).

Figure 3. The Relatives of the Ravenna-type Labyrinth – Basic Forms

From these basic forms it can be well seen that it seems justified to classify the complementary and complementary-dual labyrinths as uninteresting. The outermost (labyrinth c) and innermost (labyrinth d) respectively walls delimiting the path appear disrupted. Therefore labyrinths c and d seem less perfect than the original (a) and dual (b) labyrinths, where the pathway enters the labyrinth and reaches the center axially.

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Or more precisely: The circuit sequence of the the row-shaped visceral labyrinths. Amongst the up to now known 27 visceral labyrinths there are 21 row-shaped visceral walk-through labyrinths.  The circuit sequence may serve as a distinguishing feature. Here I would like to show the sequences of all 21 specimens.

Look at the single picture in a bigger version by clicking on them:

The method is to number the vertical loops in series from left to right. The shifting elements do not receive a number. Besides, “0” stands for outside. The transverse loops in E 3384 r_4 and E 3384 r_5 are numbered the same way. A special specimen is E 3384 v_4. Here some loops are “evacuated”. However, also there a useful circuit sequence can be found.

All labyrinths are different. No one is like the other. That alone is remarkable. So they do not follow an uniform pattern.

A first look at the circuit sequences shows that they resemble very much the circuit sequences of the one-arm alternating classical labyrinths. That means: The first digit after 0 is always an odd number. Then even and odd numbers are following alternating.

One of the next articles will deal with the decoding of the circuit sequences.

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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

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An interesting labyrinth is reproduced in the book of Kern (fig. 200, p. 119)°. A drawing by Arabian geographer Al Qazvini in his cosmography completed in 1276 is meant to show the ground plan of the residence of the ruler of Byzantium, before the large city of Constantinople was built up.

This non-alternating labyrinth has 10 circuits and a unique course of the pathway. I will show this using the Ariadne’s Thread and the pattern. In my post “From the Ariadne’s Thread to the Pattern – Method 2” (see related posts, below), I have already described how the pattern can be obtained. When deriving the pattern I always start with a labyrinth that rotates clockwise and lies with the entrance from below. The labyrinth by Qazvini rotates in clockwise direction, however it lies with the entrance from above. Therefore I rotate the following images of the labyrinth by a semicircle so that the entrance comes to lie from below. So it is possible to follow the course of the pathway with the Ariadne’s Thread and in parallel see how this is represented in the pattern.

Four steps can be distinguished in the course of the pathway.

Phase 1

The path first leads to the 3rd circuit. The entrance is marked with an arrow pointing inwards. In the pattern, axial sections of the path are represented by vertical, circuits by horizontal lines. The way from the outside in is represented from above to below.

Phase 2

In a second step, the path now winds itself inwards in the shape of a serpentine until it reaches the 10th and innermost circuit. Up to this point the course is alternating.

Phase 3

Next follows the section where the pathway leads from the innermost to the outermost circuit whilst it traverses the axis. In order to derive the pattern, the labyrinth is split along the axis and then uncurled on both sides. As the pathway traverses the axis, the piece of it along the axis has to be split in two halves (see related posts below: “The Pattern in Non-alternating Labyrinths”). This is indicated with the dashed lines. These show one and the same piece of the pathway. In the pattern, as all other axial pieces, this is represented vertically, however with lines showing up on both sides of the rectangular form and a course similarly on both sides from bottom to top.

Phase 4

Finally the pathway continues on the outermost circuit in the same direction it had previously taken on the innermost circuit (anti clockwise), then turns to the second circuit, from where it reaches the center (highlighted with a bullet point).

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°Kern, Hermann. Through the Labyrinth – Designs and Meanings over 5000 Years. Munich: Prestel, 2000.

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The Babylons are surely related to the widespread Troy Towns of the European North. However, they look a little bit different.
Directly after the entrance there is a bifurcation and therefore it is possible to go on in two directions. And then often there is no real middle, but rather you are headed back in a double spiral.

The Troy Town of Visby (Gotland Island, Sweden)

The Troy Town of Visby (Gotland Island, Sweden), Source: Ernst Krause, Die Trojaburgen Nordeuropas, 1893, fig. 1, p. 4

However, how could they have developed?
Numerous stone labyrinths have survived down to the present day in Fennoscandia. The Babylons are to be found particularly in the eastern area, from Finland up to the Russian Kola Peninsula. Often they are situated near the coast and on islands. The natives of Northern Europe, the Sami, settled here. It is possible that the Babylons deal with the traditional Sami religion.
They have presumably originated from the 13th century on until our times. And they were built in the same way: With stones fist-sized to head-sized laid down on the ground.

However, why do the Babylons look different and do not follow the well-known seed pattern with cross, angles and four dots? Much Scandinavian Troy Towns have eleven circuits and have been laid after the enlarged seed pattern.

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth with the seed pattern of the cross, the four double angles and the four dots

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth with the seed pattern of the cross, the four double angles and the four dots, on the right in a round shape

Thereby divergences and variations appeared. This can happen quite easily through this construction method.
Thus there are Swedish Troy Towns with the open cross which enables to take two directions to reach the middle, and to organise a race, e.g. This is why these also often are called “Jungfrudans” or “Jungfruringen”.

9-circuit stone labyrinth (Jungfruringen) at Köpmanholm (Sweden)

9-circuit stone labyrinth (Jungfruringen) at Köpmanholm (Sweden), Source: © John Kraft, Die Göttin im Labyrinth (1997), fig. 7, p. 26 (German edition)

In the seed pattern for this labyrinth double angles only were used in the lower area. So we have 9 circuits.

Here the layout for a 11-circuit labyrinth:

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth, on the right with open cross

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth, on the right with open cross

In the report of Budovskiy I found a graphics (from 1973?) by Prof. Kuratov who has carried out a division of labyrinths and wanted probably show how the Babylon developed (see the sketched line in the graphics).

The table of Prof. Kuratov

The table of Prof. Kuratov

In the first column a sort of principle is to be seen. As first the whole Cretan labyrinth. In the second the left-handed spiral, in the third the right-handed spiral, then the double spiral and below circles.
In row Ia we see the Cretan type in different variations.
In row Ib the open cross and a decreasing middle.
In row II a right-handed spiral and the faulty stone setting discovered by Karl Ernst von Baer (1792 – 1876) in 1838 on the island of Wiehr.
In row III the Babylon with the double spiral.
In row IV some multiple-arm labyrinths which remind of the medieval labyrinths.

The open cross occurs several times under the Scandinavian labyrinths. Besides, the empty middle sometimes becomes smaller and then even slides under the two upper turning points. Finally, it is only indicated and then left out completely.

The drawing of John Kraft shows this:

The Troy Town of Nisseviken (Sweden)

The Troy Town of Nisseviken (Sweden), Source: graphic by © John Kraft in Gotländskt Arkiv 1983 on Gotlands trojeborgar, p. 87

I have found in a report about the Babylons on WeirdRussia, beside numerous photos, also this graphic :

Stone setting on the Bolshoi Zayatsky Island

Stone setting on the Bolshoi Zayatsky Island

The middle exists next to nothing. It is rather a niche or a widening of the way. In this area small stone heaps are sometimes stacked up. Should they show the gate to the underworld or the belly of the snake? The ends of the boundary lines are thickened. This is quite easy to make with some more stones.
The labyrinth has changed its meaning, with this its appearance and became the walk-through labyrinth.

Here the layout in geometrically correct form:


Babylon Solovki

Babylon Solovki

Presumably most of the Babylons correspond to this shape.

On this photo one can recognise very well the alignment.

There is a graphic with a little “rounder” double spiral in the table of Prof. Kuratov and in Vinogradov’s report which I have still shown in my last post (see below).

There are  obviously some among the Finnish stone settings which look rather so.

Graphics of a Babylon according to Vinogradov

Graphics of a Babylon according to Vinogradov

According to most of the photos the Babylons doesn’t look exactly like this. The entrance is narrower and has a short straight piece.

Actually, one must consider them as a Wunderkreis. Even if they don’t have such a perfect double spiral like the Zeiden Wunderkreis. The Wunderkreise of Kaufbeuren or Eberswalde matches more likely the Babylons.

How could one call this type? In the last post I had suggested: Babylonian Wunderkreis. However, now I tend rather to Sami Wunderkreis because it developed in the cultural area of the Sami and probably was used in the cult of the dead.

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