The Circuit Sequence of Babylonian Visceral Labyrinths

Or more precisely: The circuit sequence of the the row-shaped visceral labyrinths. Amongst the up to now known 27 visceral labyrinths there are 21 row-shaped visceral walk-through labyrinths.  The circuit sequence may serve as a distinguishing feature. Here I would like to show the sequences of all 21 specimens.

Look at the single picture in a bigger version by clicking on them:

The method is to number the vertical loops in series from left to right. The shifting elements do not receive a number. Besides, “0” stands for outside. The transverse loops in E 3384 r_4 and E 3384 r_5 are numbered the same way. A special specimen is E 3384 v_4. Here some loops are “evacuated”. However, also there a useful circuit sequence can be found.

All labyrinths are different. No one is like the other. That alone is remarkable. So they do not follow an uniform pattern.

A first look at the circuit sequences shows that they resemble very much the circuit sequences of the one-arm alternating classical labyrinths. That means: The first digit after 0 is always an odd number. Then even and odd numbers are following alternating.

One of the next articles will deal with the decoding of the circuit sequences.

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How would the Classical Labyrinths look as Babylonian Visceral Labyrinths?

Or differently asked: Can I transform a classical labyrinth into a Babylonian visceral labyrinth?

Therefore we should first see the differences; and then the interlinking components.

As an example I start with the best known classical labyrinth: The 7 circuit Cretan labyrinth.

The 7 circuit labyrinth

The 7 circuit Classical labyrinth, on the right the complementary to it

It has a center and an entrance. There is only one way in. In the middle I am at the aim and at the end of the way. To leave I must turn and take the same way in reverse order.

Among the Babylonian visceral labyrinths one can distinguish two main groups. One are more round and devoured into each other, while in others the loops are arranged row-shaped.

Here as an example the labyrinth E3384_r8 on a clay tablet from Tell Barri (Syria) (for more, please see related posts below).

A Babylonisn visceral labyrinth

A Babylonian visceral labyrinth with 10 circuits and two entries

In the visceral labyrinth I have two entries and no real center. Nevertheless, the way leads through all of the loops to the other access. It is a walk-through labyrinth.

The circuits here are numbered from the left to the right, while in the classical labyrinths they are numbered from the outside inwards. “0” stands for the outside, in the classical labyrinth the last figure for the center.

Every labyrinth is designated by a row of numbers, the circuit sequence or the path sequence. This is the order in which the circuits will be run one by one.

The connecting element therefore is the circuit sequence. Hence, we must construct “row-shaped” walk-through labyrinths from the circuit sequence of the classical labyrinths.

At first we take the 7 circuit labyrinth as shown above. We use the circuit sequence and connect the circuits arranged in row accordingly. The second “0” indicates the walk-through labyrinth.
Then this looks as follows:

Das 7-gängige Labyrinth als Eingeweidelabyrinth

The 7 circuit classical labyrinth as visceral labyrinth, on the right the complementary

We make this still for some more classical labyrinths.

Das 3-gängige Labyrinth

The 3 crcuit labyrinth, on the left the original, on the right the complementary to it

The original is developed from the meander and is also called Knossos labyrinth. The right one is developed from the “emaciated” seed pattern. However, is at the same time complementary to the Knossos labyrinth. Under the walk-in labyrinths the visceral walk-through labyrinths.


A 5 circuit labyrinth:

Das 5-gängige Labyrinth

A 5 circuit labyrinth, on the right the complementary

There are still other 5 circuit labyrinths with an other circuit sequence. But, in principle, the process is the same one.

The shown examples were all self-dual labyrinths.


Now we take a 9 circuit labyrinth. There are more variations:

Das 9-gängige Labyrinth

A 9 circuit labyrinth in four variations

And here the corresponding visceral labyrinths:

Die Eingeweidelabyrinthe

The visceral labyrinths


Here the 11 circuit labyrinth with the corresponding visceral labyrinths:

Das 11-gängige Labyrinth

The 11 circuit labyrinth and its complementary

This one is self-dual again. Therefore there is only one complementary version to it.


Here the 15 circuit labyrinth:

Das 15-gängige Labyrinth

The 15 circuit labyrinth and its complementary

This is also self-dual.

If we compare these newly derived visceral labyrinths to the up to now known historical Babylonian visceral labyrinths, we can ascertain no correspondence. Maybe a clay tablet with an identical labyrinth appears somewhere and sometime?

So far we know about 21 Babylonian visceral labyrinths as row-shaped examples in most different variations.

For comparison I recommend the following article with the overview.

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A Modern Walk-Through Labyrinth

The Babylonian visceral labyrinths have found entrance in the modern medicine. In quite an unusual way. A labyrinth-like chip serves for the diagnosis of cancer cells in the blood. The labyrinthine arrangement of the fluid channels shows up to be an effective tool to isolate circulating cancer cells in the blood. That means that the curvature and the tortuous route in the labyrinth is especially useful.

Labyrinth-Chip

Labyrinth-Chip, Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan, © Joseph XU, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

What kind of labyrinth is this now?
At first sight it reminds of a medieval labyrinth, as it is the famous Chartres labyrinth. It has ten circuits in three sectors, in one these are eight. They will not be traversed one after the other, but reciprocally. And then it has two accesses: An entrance and an exit. It is a walk-through  labyrinth as we know that of the Babylonian labyrinths. Hence, we have an own, new type. And we see the pathway in the labyrinth, Ariadne’s thread. This reminds us of the Greek myth of the Minotaur, which is to be combated like cancer here.
If the Babylonian visceral labyrinths served for the divination, here the labyrinth serves the medicine.
This reminds me of “Ancient Myths & Modern Uses“, the book about labyrinths of Sig Lonegren.

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Further Links

The Babylonian Labyrinths: An Overview

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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