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Posts Tagged ‘processional labyrinth’

Are there labyrinths to be found under the Nazca lines?

A lot has been puzzled over these mysterious geoglyphs, of course also as regards their meaning. The supposedly oldest ones were created from 800 BCE on. They most probably served religious purposes.
There are numerous variations, many with geometric shapes, even double spirals.

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines © rrosas1004

The meander is part of them and with that we already have a similarity to the labyrinth. The double spiral is also an essential element for the Wunderkreis which has been passed on up to the present day . Gundula has found out a logical alignment for the lines in the top right corner of the previous picture. I have brought them into a geometrically correct and compact form.

Nazca Labyrinth

Nazca Labyrinth

There is no real middle in which the paths end, but rather two entrances. We have a walk-through labyrinth in front of us. Other labyrinth qualities are the uninterrupted, winding path with some turns, however, without forks or dead ends. Single elements are rotated and mirrored, depicting a sort of symmetry. A certain resemblance to the Babylonian walk-through labyrinths is recognizable, even if the entrances lie at two different places and are not side by side.

We do not know exactly what these lines have served for. However, nowadays, many archeologists incline to the view that these are processional ways used for ceremonies. Certainly not in the same sense as we do it today in a labyrinth, but for cultic purposes.

Even if one does not recognise this figure as “a real” labyrinth, it is at least prelabyrinthine and appeared in quite an other culture than the hitherto known labyrinths.

Here the layout drawing as a prototype with the dimension for the axis of 1 meter:

Layout drawing

Layout drawing

Here the layout drawing as a PDF file to watch/print/copy/save (for non commercial uses only) …

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Some time ago I already posted a walkable Babylonian visceral labyrinth (see related posts below).

Today I will present another one.

Babylonian Snail Shell Labyrinth

Babylonian Snail Shell Labyrinth

I have called it snail shell labyrinth because it reminds me of one. In addition to that I have also extended the entry area on the left a little bit wave-shaped.

It is a new type of labyrinth again: It has an unequivocal way through a labyrinth, not into a labyrinth. Therefore there are two entrances, no center to stay in or to return from.

I have written about the labyrinth and the origin quite detailed (see related posts below). The illustration on the clay tablet VAT 9560_5 of the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin forms the basis of the layout. Hewre we deal with a walkable implementation.

The following drawing shows the main elements.
At first one should fit the labyrinth into the available locality and determine the orientation. To achieve that one defines the points M3 and M5.

The main elements

The main elements

By use of triangular measurements from two points the other salient points are determined. One do not necessarily need to define the beginning and the end of each curve in advance. They lie on the (imaginary) lines between the main points or along the extension about these points.

If one puts on the semicircles in the right part first (in Blue) using M4 as midpoint, one has already created a large part of the arcs and can then add the other pieces.

As to the five curves around M3 one must pay attention that only the most internal two semicircles are continuous, the three external ones only reach up to the line determined by the points M3-M1-M6.

One could also form the entry area around M6 in a different way.


The exact measurements of the entire labyrinth are found in the layout drawing below.

The following layout drawing is a sort of prototype with the dimension of 1 m between  the axes which also corresponds to the distance from line to line. The remaining measurements arise from this definition and the shape of the labyrinth.

The construction is scaleable. This means, all other desired path widths can be derived from it.

If e.g., a path width of 60 cm is desired, one takes the factor 0.6. All other measurements of the drawing are calculated with this factor, i.e. the road length as well as the line length, the main dimensions, the radii, the oblique distances of the centres etc.

Layout drawing

Layout drawing

Two examples:

One labyrinth sprayed on the lawn in the garden of Gundula Thormaehlen Friedman in Bad Kreuznach.

One painted with chalk on the plaster of the parking area in front of our flat in Würzburg. The children of the surroundings had a lot of fun and were running it tirelessly.

By the way, one can also walk the labyrinth hand in hand. After the first round the partner starts in the upper entrance. In the meander of the middle one meets and changes the paths.

Here the layout drawing as a PDF file to watch/print/copy/save (for non- commercial uses only) …

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In the meantime, I could put on some walkable visceral labyrinths. As a walk through labyrinth without central middle it provides quite new experiences.

It is a new type of labyrinth: An unequivocal way through a labyrinth, not into a labyrinth.

 

Babylonian intestinal labyrinth

Babylonian intestinal labyrinth

As a name came to my mind also: Tapeworm labyrinth or intestinal labyrinth.

Because it is, however, only the geometrically exact transformation of the figure on the clay tablet VAT 744 of the Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin, one could also maintain the name chosen by Ernst Friedrich Weidner in 1917 “Berlin Labyrinth”.

Quite unexpectedly has turned out that this special type is a “pair labyrinth”. Since one can go from the beginning side by side on different paths and meets only at one single place with a change of course.

While marking out the labyrinth I have also found out how one should proceed while putting on the labyrinth. The following drawings will explain this clearer.

At first the approximate middle is fixed in point M4 and following the main axis up to the point M5 (9.00 m).

The further salient points are fixed with triangulation measurement from 2 points.

This is here only the point B. With the distance M4-B (8.00 m) and the distance M5-B (5.67 m) point B is marked out.

The exact measurements for a prototype with 1 m dimension between axes are found in the layout drawing below.

Point A lies in the lengthening of the line from point B through M4 by 6.00 m.

Then one fixes the midpoints M1, M3 and M2 along this line. Maybe also the beginning or end points of the arcs with a distance of 1 m.

To this see Fig. 1.Fig. 1 and 2
Now it is best, to pull all eight semicircles in the right upper part.

The first four semicircles 1 – 4 have M1 as midpoint and are drawn with the radii 1 m, 2 m, 3 m, 4m.

The different arcs, midpoints and numbers are shown colourfully differently.

To this see Fig. 2.
Fig. 3 and 4

Around M2 there is only one semicircle (radius 1 m). This is at the same time the “secret” middle with the sickle-shaped left blank figure.

Around M3 there are three semicircles (with the radii 5 m, 6 m, 7 m). Here don’t let you confuse by the design of the curves. Since they begin or end together with other curves. Thus the sickle-shaped “fontanel” is also generated.

To this see Fig. 3.

Then around M4 one pulls six semicircles 1 – 6 (beginning with radius 1 m, further to radius 6 m) in the left lower part up to the sloping line.

The both curves 7 and 8 with the radii 7 m and 8 m are only drawn up to the vertical between M4 and M5.

To this see Fig. 4.
Fig. 5 and 6

Around M5 are the three quarter circles 1 – 3 to pull (radius 1 m to radius 3 m) for the input area.

To this see Fig. 5.

All lines (the boundary lines) of the labyrinth are to be seen in Fig. 6. The actual way through the labyrinth is the free area between these lines.


The following layout drawing is a sort of prototype with the dimension between axes of 1 m for the distance from line to line. This corresponds to a path width of 1 m. The remaining measurements arise from this definition and the design of the labyrinth.

The construction is scaleable. This means, all the other desired path widths can be derived from it.

The following photos show the labyrinth with a path width of 50 cm. All measurements were multiplied by the factor 0.5 to build them.

If e.g., a path width of 60 cm is wished, one takes the factor 0.6. All other measurements of the drawing are to be calculated with this factor, so also the path length, the line length, the main dimensions, the radii, the sloping distances of the midpoints etc.

Layout drawing

Layout drawing

Two examples for a path width of 50 cm:

The worldwide first labyrinth of this kind on grass in the garden of the co-founder of the TLS Gundula Thormaehlen Friedman in Bad Kreuznach (Germany).

The second one on the pavement of the parking place in front of our home in Würzburg (Germany).

Sprayed on grass

Sprayed on grass

Painted with chalk on pavement

Painted with chalk on pavement

Walking two by two: The test by our grandson and his girlfriend from the neighborhood.

Here the layout drawing as a PDF file to watch/print/copy/save (for non commercial uses only) …

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Via Facebook  I have found this modern walk through labyrinth:

Walk-through labyrinth with meanders

Drawing by kind permission of © Sergej Likhovid

The drawing is sketched for a labyrinth by Sergej Likhovid, that was structured in an abandoned swimming pool in Odessa (Ukraine). See more about the project in a news article in the Further Links at the bottom. Besides, it is a sector labyrinth and uses the meander. And with that we get onto the subject of the post:

In the history of the labyrinth the meander plays a big role. The meander can be traced back till the Neolithic Age. So the meander is much older than all up to now known labyrinth figures (on the tablet of Pylos in 1200 B.C.). When was the first combination meander – labyrinth? The connection with the labyrinth can be presumably proved now till the Babylonian time (about 1800 B.C.).

In the 1st part I have already introduced the labyrinth from fig. 5 of the Near East clay tablet VAT 9560 in Weidner’s article. The tablet is dated by him based on the attributed cuneiform inscriptions to the time about 1000 B.C.

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 5 (Ariadne's thread)

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 5 (Ariadne’s thread)

On this representation of the path’s structure (the so called Ariadne’s thread) one can recognize very nicely the meander in the middle.

Here the geometrically correct representation of the limitation lines:

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 5 (the lines)

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 5 (the lines)

In this drawing the basic pattern can be read. It has an amazing resemblance with that for the Indian labyrinth, nevertheless, is a little bit differently constructed.

In Weidner’s script there is still fig. 4 of the tablet VAT 9560. Though the figure is incomplete, however, it shows clearly an access on the top left and the end in the middle:

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

The visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

The both lines on the right side can be reconstructed unambiguously, and the completed figure shows a labyrinth:

Drawing of the complete visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

Drawing of the complete visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

Here the graphics in a geometrically correct manner:

Graphics of the visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

Graphics of the visceral labyrinth VAT 9560, fig. 4

The comparison of the different labyrinths from fig. 5 and fig. 4 shows within the triangle in the geometrically correctly drawn representations an identical pattern. And this is identical again with a quite known basic pattern, namely of the Indian labyrinth (also called Chakra Vyuha). Read more about the Indian Labyrinth on Related Posts at the bottom.

The seed pattern for the Indian labyrinth

The seed pattern for the Indian labyrinth

Only the connection of the dots and lines is a little bit differently for the walk through labyrinth after fig. 5. For the Indian labyrinth (and the one of fig. 4) one begins in the triangular seed pattern on top and makes the first curve down to the next line end below on the right side. And then one connects all the further line ends and dots in usual manner as for the classical labyrinth in parallel arcs to the first curve. For the walk through labyrinth after fig. 4 one also begins on top, pulls the first curve, nevertheless, to the second line end. The rest is constructed again as usual.

The Indian labyrinth is still known in other variations. Here an illustration from Hermann Kern’s book:

The Indian labyrinth

The Indian labyrinth, source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinths (2000), fig. 607, p. 287

The Indian labyrinth is very old, but the origin is not so easily to prove. Who has discovered the basic pattern for it, to my knowledge is unknown, may presumably have occurred in newer time.

To my conviction one may consider the Babylonian labyrinths as genuine labyrinths, even if most of them are walk through labyrinths. They follow a different paradigm than our usual Western notion of a single path ending at the center. Nevertheless, we can count them to the real labyrinths, like we do it with the Baltic wheel and the Wunderkreis of Kaufbeuren, as well as with many other contemporary creations.

In the meantime I could find about 50 different walk through and intestinal labyrinths from Babylonian time. Whether a mutual influence under these different cultural spheres existed, is uncertain, and which is now the oldest historically manifested labyrinth, is not yet proved.

However, another example of a divination labyrinth from Mesopotamia from about 1800 B.C. could outstrip the clay tablet of Pylos from 1200 B.C. On the website of Jeff Saward I found a picture of it (more on the Links below). Here a drawing of it:

The Mesopotamian divination labyrinth from 1800 B.C.

The Mesopotamian divination labyrinth from 1800 B.C.

It is certainly not comparable directly with the classical labyrinth, nevertheless, a closer look at it is worthwhile and shows the relationship to the labyrinth figure.

Following graphics with the representation of the lines, the normally hidden path (Ariadne’s thread in Red) in a geometrically correct way:

Graphics of the Mesopotamian divination tablet from 1800 B.C.

Graphics of the Mesopotamian divination tablet from 1800 B.C.

It looks quite differently than we would have expected. However, it has only one entrance and an end in the middle. Though the middle is below, but here ends the way. The path spirals upwards in serpentines and turns down through a meander.

The way is unequivocal, fills the whole space, have no forks and dead ends, must be absolved completely, leads to a goal – and turns back to the outside. Even if the lines would be open in the middle below, the diagnosis “Labyrinth” would be kept up.

… To be continued

More information about the Babylonian clay tablets can be found in an excellent article from Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Sawards Caerdroia 42 (March 2014).

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This fading artwork of Denny Dyke on the beach of Bandon, Oregon shows double spirals, knots and a walk through labyrinth with a meander in the middle.
Is this something new or are there some historical ancestors?

Dream-Field from Denny Dyke on the beach of Bandon, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Amber Shelley-Harris

Dream-Field from Denny Dyke on the beach of Bandon, Oregon. Photo courtesy of Amber Shelley-Harris

One of the first pictures in Hermann Kern’s book “Labyrinths” shows the so-called . It is on a clay tablet from presumably Middle- to Neo-Babylonian time (from 1100 to 600 B.C.) in the Near East Museum of Berlin (Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin) under the number VAT 744. It shows the intestines of a sacrificial animal with the drawing as a pattern for the ancient practice of extispicy.
For Hermann Kern this is not a labyrinth, but a double spiral with changing direction in the middle. Also spirals, meanders and knots are no labyrinths. These are not in the strict sense, but they are elements in labyrinths.

The Berlin Labyrinth

The Berlin Labyrinth

The Near East archeologist and Assyriologist Ernst Friedrich Weidner has 1917 written about that in an article under the title “Zur babylonischen Eingeweideschau, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Labyrinths” (translated: “About the Babylonian extispicy; at same time a contribution to the history of the labyrinth”) in the “Orientalistische Studien” (see link below, on the pages 191-198).

Diagram tablet of intestines VAT 984

Diagram tablet of intestines VAT 984

He sees in these intestinal drawings an extraordinary close relationship to the labyrinth drawings of the Aegean culture (as on the jug of Tragliatella) and the Troy Towns of Northern Europe.

The jug of Tragliatella

The jug of Tragliatella

But he didn’t prove this relationship. However, thus is not done so easily. Therefore a closer look to the tablets in Weidner’s writ is worthwhile. Only an analysis of the alignment of the paths shows the resemblance.

First the double spiral:

A double spiral

A double spiral

There are two entrances / exits. Both paths (colourfully marked) meet in the center where the direction of the movement changes. The alignment corresponds to a meander.

The alignment of the >Berlin Labyrinth<:

The path in the Berlin Labyrinth

The path in the Berlin Labyrinth

Entrance and exit are placed side by side. There are three turning points where the path changes direction. But it is not a double spiral, because there would the direction change only once.

Following a drawing with the original, Ariadne’s thread and the walls in geometrical correct shape:

Drawing of the Berlin Labyrinth

Drawing of the Berlin Labyrinth

By the way, the labyrinth can be quite simply drawn, even if the description sounds complex. It refers to the right lower drawing.

  • I draw two straight inclined lines, meeting in a center point (in blue, dashed)
  • Inside the left half  I draw around this center point in steady distances eight semicircles (in black), the both outside only partially
  • Now the right side:
  • I connect the 3rd and 5th curve end (counted from above on the left) with the 4th curve end as a center with a semicircle (in cyan)
  • I connect the 1st and 3rd curve end (counted from the middle) with the 2nd curve end as a center with a semicircle (in green)
  • I continue with three other semicircles (in green) in parallel distance
  • The last three semicircles (in brown) have as center the first curve end below the intersection of the two blue auxiliary lines
  • Three semicircles have in common an already “occupied” curve end point: the 3rd and 5th from the left on top, the 3rd from the right below
  • Eight arcs on the left side of a common line and seven arcs on the right side of it generate the “Berlin Labyrinth”
  • The “fontanel” as an empty space is relatively big

The relationship to a classical labyrinth is yet not so good to recognize. But you may still guess that it could be a labyrinth.

Another figure from Weidner’s script fits better:

The Near East clay tablet VAT 9560

The Near East clay tablet VAT 9560

There are two entrances / exits and four turning points.

In the graphic we look at every way separately:

Graphics of the Near-East clay tablet VAT 9560

Graphics of the Near-East clay tablet VAT 9560

Though the alignment of the turning path is spiral-shaped, nevertheless, it is no double spiral. The circuits swing about two turning points. One time directly and another time embedded around the turning point of the other way. Two circuits of a path thereby also run side by side. In the middle the paths meet and are connected through a meander with each other. One path is leading in and one out.
Every path for itself looks like a labyrinth. Hence, we have two labyrinths intertwined together who are connected through a meander. The paths are unequivocal and purposeful, change commuting the direction and have no branchings or dead ends. They fill out the whole interior and must be followed entirely. All that what Hermann Kern demands for a labyrinth.

Following the path in a Babylonian visceral labyrinth in a geometrically correct shape:

Ariadne's thread in a Babylonian visceral labyrinth

Ariadne’s thread in a Babylonian visceral labyrinth

Following the “walls” in a geometrically correct drawing:

The Babylonian visceral labyrinth

The Babylonian visceral labyrinth

This labyrinth has even a seed pattern. Who finds it? (More about that in a later posting).

There is no end of the path in a clearly defined center as we now (in the Western world) are accustomed. It is a path not leading to a center, but through it. It shows a quite different meaning of the labyrinth. It comes from a quite different culture and served other purposes. It matches rather the motto: The way is the aim.
Even if we do not recognize that as a “full-value” labyrinth, one must see it as a precursor of the “true” labyrinth.
We have two paths in the Baltic Wheel. The Wunderkreis of Kaufbeuren has even a branching and a meander in the middle. We accept, in the meantime, also other creations as walk-through or processional labyrinths.

However, I have found in Weidner’s script something else very interesting: A visceral labyrinth with only one way ending in a center. It can be drawn with a already known seed pattern. More about that in a later posting.

… To be continued

Further Links

More information about the Babylonian clay tablets can be found in an excellent article from Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Sawards Caerdroia 42 (March 2014).

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The labyrinth on the schoolyard of the Mönchbergschule in Würzburg is of the type Baltic wheel. There is a short way from or into the center. Thus it is very good for “processions”. A lot of people can move at the same time in the labyrinth.
The satellite photographs of Wuerzburg in Google Earth are of very good quality. I looked for the labyrinth and found it.
Here the bird’s eye view of the labyrinth in an interactive map, in which one can also navigate:

Here some terrestrial pictures:

Building activity

Building activity

The schoolhouse

The schoolhouse

School festivities

School festivities

The entire school

The entire school

The schoolmaster

The schoolmaster

Secondary growth

Secondary growth

Visitors from the Netherlands

Visitors from the Netherlands

A laggard

A laggard

Visitors

Visitors

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