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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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