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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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The silver coins of Knossos are quoted again and again when we talk about the labyrinth. They can be found in the major museums of the world.

Last year I was able to see and photograph one of them on a trip to Vienna in the Coin Cabinet of the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Kinsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kinsthistorisches Museum Wien

The book “Labyrinths” by Hermann Kern shows illustrations of 20 coins from the British Museum in London.

Meanwhile there is a digital interactive catalog of the Coin Cabinet of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlinn, where you can access more than 34,000 coins.

With the search term “Labyrinth Knossos” I found 22, which I can show here under the following license.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License.

The coins cover a period of 425 BC until 12 BC. Shown is mostly the reverse of the coin.

For the interpretation of the representations I have found some interesting information in the description that I quote here (translated from German):

The Cretan town of Knossos has been closely linked to the myth of the Minotaur since antiquity. His mythical dwelling, the labyrinth, was one of the city’s landmarks. However, the depiction of the labyrinth on the Knossos coins came in very different ways, since a real non-existing place had to be shown. The labyrinth is always pictured in supervision, but with different outer shapes and structuring. Only in supervision, the labyrinth can be detected as such.

I highly recommend visiting the digital catalog. There are to find many additional details about the coins. In particular, there is the possibility to look at both sides and to retrieve further information.

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