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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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What does I mean by “Indian labyrinth”? Therewith I understand at first a simple 3- or more circuit labyrinth (round two turning points) with a spiral in the middle. The spiral can have any number of lines. We therefore deal with a composite design.

The Labyrinth Society (TLS) classifies it as “Other Classical Seed Patterns”, whereby as subtypes are named the “Chakra-Vyuha Labyrinth” and the “Baltic Labyrinth”.

This type is still floating around, and is it as a decoration on a birthday tart, as recently did Lisa Gidlow Moriarty (USA):

Chakra Vyuha on a tart

Chakra Vyuha on a birthday tart, created and © Lisa Moriarty

Such a labyrinth can be generated from a seed pattern which is based on a triangle. It is also called Chakra Vyuha. However, there are also other seed patterns known (see related Posts below).

And therefore it is diffculty to classify all the types in a common typology, partly because they emerge quite differently in time and space.

I start with a simple labyrinth. It is found in Hermann Kern’s book and dates from the 12th century.

Chakra Vyuha

The Indian Labyrinth, Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe (1982), fig. 602, p. 422 (German edition)

The Babylonian visceral labyrinth on a clay tablet with the number 9560 in the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin is about 2000 years older. The archeologist Ernst Friedrich Weidner (read more here) shows it in a report from 1917 as fig. 4:

The Babylonian visceral labyrinth

The Babylonian visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

This does not look as if it had been made from a basic pattern.

The visceral labyrinth in three moves

The visceral labyrinth in three moves

But it can be drawn in three moves. I begin in the middle, draw the spiral, make a loop outwards on the right side and shift in a bow to the left side (green line). Then I begin a new line inside the loop, round the preceding line and end the line at the underside of the spiral (blue line). The third line begins near the preceding line and shifts to the left (yellow line).

The Chakra Vyuha can be drawn the same way:

The Chakra Vyuha in two moves

The Chakra Vyuha in two moves

The path of the labyrinth, Ariadne’s thread, must be drawn in one move.

This can be done from the inside outwardly or also vice versa.


I had described a method to generate walk-through labyrinths from the type Wunderkreis with any desired circuits in the post “Variations on the Wunderkreis” (see related posts below).

This method, easily modified, can be also used to generate the composite labyrinths with spirals from any desired twists and simple labyrinths with three and more circuits.

Once again briefly the principles:

I begin in the middle and draw a spiral with at least one, however, also any desired turns. The boundary lines are colored in green, the path (Ariadne’s thread) in brown.

Round the spiral I add the desired number of labyrinthine circuits, at least three up to more (endlessly). But always an odd number.

From the outside inwards I draw the loops (in yellow). Because I must have an odd number of line ends for the boundary lines on every side, I begin or finish one line at the underside of the spiral.

In order to draw the boundary lines the middle free line inside the loops is extended forwards (in red).

In order to draw Ariadne’s thread I extend the most internal line forwards on the side with the odd number of line ends (in red). The remaining free line ends are connected in loops (in yellow).

In the last example I turn one more “lap of honour” (in black) around the whole. So I may produce with the right number of circuits the  historically verified Windelburg of Stolp.

The Windelburg of Stolp

The Windelburg of Stolp

The Windelburg of Stolp had a 3 circuit spiral and 15 labyrinthine circuits plus an additional circuit completely around.

How should one now classify the presented examples properly? One surely can not label all as Indian labyrinths. The Windelburg belongs rather to the Troy Towns and is also counted to the Baltic labyrinths. However, they all have the same pattern, belong to the same type.

To be able to build a labyrinth, one must bring it in a geometrically correct form. For this I choose the Windelburg, make less circuits and provide it in a layout drawing.

A new Windelburg

A new Windelburg

I present it as sort of prototype with 1 meter dimension between axes, a 2 circuit spiral and 9 labyrinthine circuits as a PDF file to look at, to print or to download.

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In my last posting I had introduced a method to draw the Wunderkreis. Besides, it was always about the boundary lines. However, the path (Ariadne’s thread) in the labyrinth can also be drawn with this method slightly changed then.

And of course numerous variations with differently many circuits can be generated for the double spiral and the labyrinthine windings.

Square Wunderkreis

Square Wunderkreis

Here in abstract once again the method:

  • I begin in the middle
  • Arc upwards from the left to the right, jump to the left, arc downwards
  • Path: Arc downwards, immediately following an arc upwards (closed line, like a recumbent “S”)
  • Jump to the left, curve upwards around the whole
  • Repeat this  as often as desired (on the right side there must always be two free ends which point down)
  • Then draw around the whole, beginning on the left, an odd number of curves (at least 3, until as much as you want)
  • Path: Extend both most internal lines down (maybe connect them)
  • Connect the free line ends on every side in loops
  • Boundary lines: Extend both most internal lines on every side inside the innermost loop

Sorry, this was a little longer. Maybe it is easier to understand the text together with the drawings. The different colours should help also. Best you try it yourself.

The labyrinth will be mirrored if one draws the first arc to the other direction.
One recognises the representation of the path by the fact that there are only two, perhaps only one line end (how it is also for the other types of labyrinths). If one sees four free line ends, the boundary lines are shown. Nevertheless, in the Wunderkreis the lines do not overlap as we see that in the classical labyrinth.

I have chosen known Wunderkreise as examples for the simplistic representation of the respective alignments.
In the related posts below you may find them all. As well as the step-by-step instruction.

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The Wunderkreis and the Baltic Wheel are compound labyrinths which are constructed from curves around different centres. The two lower turning points are proper for the “labyrinthine” circuits, those in the middle for the double spiral.

A Baltic wheel has a bigger, empty center and a short second exit. This is already a double spiral, yet without more twists. Both accesses are normally separated by an own intermediate piece, a sort of shoehorn.

The pattern for the layout is the same one for both labyrinth types. The tool to produce the layout is also the same. The number of the circuits in all can be different, nevertheless.

Here it is only about the method. The geometrically correct construction is another thing again. There are already several posts in this blog about that.

There is no seed pattern like we have it for the well-known classical labyrinth. However, there is a basically very simple method to draw such a labyrinth or to lay it directly with stones or to scratch it in the sand.

A step-by-step instruction should show it. The boundary lines of the labyrinth are drawn, the path runs between the lines.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 1: I draw half a curve upwards, from the left to the right.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 2: I jump a little bit to the left, make a curve downwards to the left, walk round the first curve and land to the right of the preceding curve.
This would already be the center of the Baltic Wheel or the middle of the smallest possible Wunderkreis.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 3: Nevertheless, the double spiral should become bigger. Hence, I jump again a little bit to the left at the end of the first curve in green, make an other curve downwards to the left and walk again round the preceding curves.
Thus I could continue any desired. There must be left on the right side, however, always two free curve ends. With that the double spiral would be finished inside the Wunderkreis.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 4: Now I must add at least three semi-circular curves round the previous lines.
If I want to have a bigger labyrinth, I can add more lines in pairs. There must however be an odd number of curves.
In our example we now have on the left side three free line ends, and on the right side five.

Step 5

Step 5

Step 5: Now I connect on every side the innermost and the outmost lying free line in such a manner that in between an access is possible. This is to be continued (here only on the right side) so long as on every side only one single line end is left.

Step 6

Step 6

Step 6: The both on every side lying free line ends are extended forwards. They represent the both lower turning points.
The labyrinth is finished.

Finally we will check out if the drawing is correct. We go in between the lines, turn to the right or to the left and must come again to the starting point. If not, something must be wrong.

Best try it out yourself, with a pencil on a sheet of paper. Wishing you success.

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Among the Wunderkreise there are some variations:

  • Some with two entries like the Zeiden Wunderkreis
  • Some with one access, but a bifurcation such as the Russian Babylons and the examples of Kaufbeuren or Eberswalde
  • Some with a nearly perfect double spiral like the Zeiden Wunderkreis
  • Some with a “pulled apart” double spiral such as the Russian Babylons, the example of Eberswalde and some Swedish and Finnish examples

The Babylonian Wunderkreis

Wunderkreise are compound labyrinths which are constructed from curves around different central points. Both lower turning points are proper for the “labyrinthine” circuits, the ones in the middle for the double spiral.
The double spiral in the Zeiden Wunderkreis is made from two centres lying side by side, and with it a total of only four centres the whole Wunderkreis can be constructed.

Here a Swedish example with a pulled apart double spiral from the book of Hermann Kern:

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island (Sweden)

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island, Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, fig. 584 (German edition); Photo: Bo Stiernström, 1976

A geometrically correct construction for a Wunderkreis with pulled apart double spiral requires more centres. Thus I receive for the Russian Babylons a total of six centres.

A sort of prototype with the dimension between axes of 1 m should serve as example. All values are thereby scaleable and differently big labyrinths can be constructed.

Construction elements

Construction elements

Best of all one begins by defining M1. After that one determines the direction of the perpendicular bisectors of the sides, and then constructs step by step the remaining mid points M2 to M6 through building the intersection of the triangle sides from two known points. All thereto necessary measurements are contained in the drawing.

The main dimensions

The main dimensions

The radii refer in each case to the middle axis of the boundary lines. The way runs between these boundary lines and, hence, is the empty space between these lines.

The different radii

The different radii

Here are the above shown components in one drawing as a PDF file to look at, to print or to copy.

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The notation with the coordinates is consistent, understandable and works well in one- and multiple-arm, alternating and non-alternating labyrinths. However, for a labyrinth with three circuits, at least 6 segments are needed (in one- and two-arm labyrinths: number of circuits times two, in all other labyrinths: number of segments times number of arms).

Correspondingly, the sequences of segments rapidly increase in their length with the size of the labyrinth. The Chartres type labyrinth e.g. has 44 segments, as have all other types of labyrinths with 4 arms and 11 circuits.

 

 

Here I present the sequence of segments of the Chartres type labyrinth for illustration. This is:


Nevertheless this sequence of segments is a well understandable instruction of how to draw the labyrinth. It reads about like this: Go first to the fifth circuit, walk along the first segment (5.1), then proceed to the 6. circuit and stay in the first segment (6.1). Next, go to the 11th circuit in the first segment (11.1) continue on the same circuit to the 2nd segment (11.2), skip then to the 10th circuit in the 2nd segment (10.2) asf. This also implies that from each coordinate subsequent to the previous it becomes clear, whether the path makes a turn (as from coordinate 5.1 to 6.1) or if it traverses the arm (such as from 11.1 to 11.2). However it is a long and complex series of numbers.

Now there are also various other possibilities to write notations for multiple-arm labyrinths that may have less digits. In any case, the labyrinths first have to be notionally partitiond into segments. However in some notations it is possible to combine multiple segments in one term. I will illustrate this here with the example of a notation for the Chartres labyrinth by Hébert°.

 

This is a notation comparable with the one presented in the post „Circuits and Segments“, where the segments had been numbered by circuits. In this case, if the pathway passes through multiple segments on the same circuit, the number of the circuit was repeated accoridingly. This, for the labyrinth of Chartres would result in 44 numbers. In the notation by Hébert the length of the sequence reduces to 31 numbers. However, each number must now be written with a prefix. For instance, „-“ indicates, that the following number is written only once, as the path traverses only one segment. A prefix „+“, on the other hand, indicates that the following number would have to be written twice as the path passes two subsequent segments. Thus, different prefixes have to be taken into account. And two prefixes will not be sufficient. Additional prefixes will be required to capture the pathway passing through three, four or more subsequent segments, or to indicate that the arm is traversed whilst the path skips onto another circuit. So while this notation is shorter it is also more difficult to apply. Furthermore it is subject to the weakness already discussed earlier, that, althoug it indicates the circuit, it does not indicate the segment actually covered by the pathway.

Other notations exist as well. I do not address this further here. It should have become clear that the sequences of segments in multiple-arm labyrinths rapidly increase in length and complexity. In most types of such labyrinths the sequence of segments is therefore not suited for giving a name. Just try to imagine to name the labyrinth I had shown in January with its sequence of segments. This labyrinth has 12 arms and 23 circuits and thus 276 segments.

 

 

I abstain here from writing down the sequence of segments of this labyrinth. It would fill some 14 – 15 lines.

Conclusion

To conclude, I want to come back to the original question whether the sequence of circuits can be used for giving names to the different types of labyrinths. I had two concerns about this:

  • First, in one-arm labyrinths this sequence was not unique. However this problem could be easily solved by adding a prefix „-“ only to those numbers of circuits where the pathway traverses the axis. Therefore in not too large types of one-arm labyrinths the sequence of circuits can be used for naming.
  • Second, in multiple-arm labyrinths the sequence will rapidly increase in length. It turned out that in these labyrinths the sequence of segments has to be considered and that this usually becomes either be too long or too complex or both. Therefore I consider it not suited for giving name in multiple-arm labyrinths.

° Hébert J. A Mathematical Notation for Medieval Labyrinths. Caerdroia 2004; 34: 37-43.

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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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