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Posts Tagged ‘Minotaur’

In 2017, a commemorative coin dedicated to the Minoan civilization was issued by the Mint of the Central Bank of Greece.
This earliest civilization in Europe can be traced back to the years around 2600 BC. The Minoan civilization got its name from the famous King Minos. The story goes that, with the help of the god of the seas, Poseidon, and a white bull, he came to power and thus gained fame and reverence among his people.

The 50-euro gold coin from 2017 was issued with an edition of 1500 pieces and minted in real gold (999.9 / 1000) in the highest collector quality “polished plate”.

Here is the value side:

Value side: Hellenic Democracy 50 Euro

Value side: Hellenic Democracy 50 Euro

And here the picture side:

Picture side: Minoan Civilization 2017

Picture side: Minoan Civilization 2017

Two nested cross meanders can be seen in a large square around 5 smaller squares.
Here is the structure in a black and white tracing:

Draw up of the picture side

Draw up of the picture side

The black lines form two closed line systems without beginning and end. The white lines have branches and dead-ends, also without access. This is reminiscent of a similar representation on the silver coins of Knossos, which are well over 2000 years older (see related posts below).

Should the representation again symbolize the labyrinth of the Minotaur?

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In Greek mythology, the labyrinth is the place where the Minotaur is hidden and imprisoned. It is therefore not necessarily a real place.
The labyrinth, as we know it today, is highly inappropriate. Because it has an entrance, a clear path and an accessible center.
Thus, on the silver coins from Knossos we also find very different interpretations of the labyrinth. There are meanders and other symbolic representations.
I want to pick out a motif today and take a closer look at it.

I found two examples with the same motif. One on a coin from the Coin Cabinet of Berlin:

Minotaur 420-380 BC

Minotaur 420-380 BC: Coin Cabinet of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, object 18218282 obverse

Labyrinth 420-380 BC.

Labyrinth 420-380 BC: Coin Cabinet of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, object 18218282 reverse

And one on a coin from the British Museum in London:

Square area meander 500-431 BC

Square area meander 500-431 BC / source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe (German edition), 1982, fig. 43

They both represent the same thing. Although the “Berlin” coin seems to be more exact, it contains small errors in two places in the upper area. Two vertical lines collide, where a gap should actually be. This area is more accurately represented on the “London” coin, although the lines there are harder to see.

I made a “final drawing” that shows what the coin maker wanted to show. You can see lines that follow a certain pattern. They are symmetrical, repeating themselves and showing an intricate “path system”. The drawn red thread shows that.
There are four nested paths without beginning and end, but also without entrance. This is not “our” labyrinth but better suited as a prison. The Minotaur would not come out that fast.

The revised area meander

The revised area meander

This could be a hint of the Roman sector labyrinth hundreds of years later.

But it also shows a certain relationship to the Babylonian labyrinth, hundreds of years older and developed in a different culture (see the labyrinthine finger exercises in the post about the Babylonian labyrinth).

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We already had this topic. Only, the operative word is: from one meander.  Since the well-known 7 circuit classical labyrinth is composed of two meanders.

The particularly suited meander for this in schematic view looks as follows:

Meander with the line sequence 0-7-2-5-4-3-6-1-8

Meander with the line sequence 0-7-2-5-4-3-6-1-8

The deciphered meander delivers the path sequence for a labyrinth with its line sequence.

The labyrinth developed from it, in a round shape and a larger middle looks as follows:

A 7 circuit meander labyrinth

A 7 circuit meander labyrinth

The walls are shown in black, the seed pattern contained in the lines is highlighted in colour.

It is a 7 circuit classical labyrinth with the path sequence 0-7-2-5-4-3-6-1-8. It is also remarkable that the walls do not cross. It has only two turning points and quite another alignment than the well-known classical labyrinth with four turning points and the path sequence 0-3-2-1-4-7-6-5-8.
This can be constructed, as everybody knows, from the seed pattern, but also from two joined together meanders of the simple type.
There are different methods or technologies to develop a labyrinth. I would like to call the procedure applied here the meander method.

This begs the question if there is a historical model. To my knowledge there has not been this type yet. (Objections welcome).

But where do we find such a meander? Unfortunately, in the antique collection of the Martin von Wagner Museum of the University of Würzburg I did not (as) yet find one.
In Hermann Kern’s book “Labyrinths” is the image of a Kylix from the British Museum of London (E 84), it shows the dead Minotaur dragged out of the labyrinth by Theseus .

Red-figured Attic kylix from 440-430 BC

Red-figured Attic kylix from 440-430 BC / Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, pict. 3, German edition

Hermann Kern describes the edge as a ribbon with angular shaped, contra-rotating connected spirals. The gate shows overlapping meanders.

The archeologists regard the angular shaped, open, interdependent spirals  either as preliminary stages of the meander or even as meanders. Since they also speak of hook meanders or broken meanders (Source: R.M. Cook, Clazomenian Sarcophagi, published by von Zabern in 1981).

However, I also can develop a labyrinth from this spiral. Since the line sequence is identical with the one in the meander. If I take the white line, I also have a meander.

Spiral with the line sequence 0-7-2-5-4-3-6-1-8

Spiral with the line sequence 0-7-2-5-4-3-6-1-8

In the spiral I can very well reproduce the change of directions. I turn inwards on the lines 0-7-2-5-4, then I jump to line 3 and go on the lines 3-6-1-8 outwardly. In the labyrinth this is the movement from the outside into the center around the two turning points, so I have the same sequence of movements.

Back to the Attic kylix: On the edge are 9 checkered patterns with 5 squares  and in between are in one  field 4 double spirals and in eight fields three double spirals. All together we find 28 double spirals. In the vertical frieze on the kylix are two checkered patterns with 9 squares and three meander crosses.

Are these only ornaments and decorations? Or do they mean more? This can be subject of speculation. For me these ornaments contain enough allusions on the labyrinth and even the patterns of “real” labyrinths.

According to Hermann Kern the meander could be a token for the labyrinth from the 5th century BC on. Others speak of a sign or an ideogram for the labyrinth (Source: Eva Wilson, British Museum Pattern Books: Roman Designs, published in 1999, page 12).

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