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We take a 7-circuit classical labyrinth and number the single circuits from the outside inwards. “0” stands for the outside, “8” denotes the center. I take this two numbers into the circuit sequence, although they are no circuits. As start and end point they help to better understand the structure of the labyrinth.

Ariadne's thread in the 7-circuit labyrinth

Ariadne’s thread in the 7-circuit labyrinth

The circuit sequence is: 0-3-2-1-4-7-6-5-8

Everybody which already has “trampled” Ariadne’s thread (the path) in the snow knows this: Suddenly there is no more place in the middle, and one simply goes out. And already one has created a walk-through labyrinth. This is possible in nearly all labyrinths.

Then maybe it looks like this:

Ariadne's thread in a walk-through labyrinth

Ariadne’s thread in a walk-through labyrinth

If one wants a more compact labyrinth, one must change the shape. The internal circuits become, in the end, a double spiral. We can make either two separate ways or join them. So we will get a bifurcation.

Just about:

The 7-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The 7-circuit walk-through labyrinth

We will get the following circuit sequence if we take the left way or the fork to the left:
0-3-2-1-4-7-6-5-0

Now we take first the right way or the fork to the right, then the circuit sequence will be:
0-5-6-7-4-1-2-3-0

Because the two rows are written among each other, they simply can be add up together (without the first and the last digit):
8-8-8-8-8-8-8

This means: If I go to the left, I am in the original labyrinth, if I go to the right, I cross the complementary one.

The complementary labyrinth of the 7-circuit labyrinth

The complementary labyrinth of the 7-circuit labyrinth

It has the circuit sequence 0-5-6-7-4-1-2-3-8.

Or said in other terms: The walk-through labyrinth contains two different labyrinths, the original one and the complementary one.

The 7-circuit labyrinth is self-dual. Therefore I only get two different labyrinths through rotation and mirroring as Andreas has described in detail in his preceding posts.

How does the walk-through labyrinth look if I choose a non self-dual labyrinth?

I take this 9-circuit labyrinth as an example:

A 9-circuit labyrinth

A 9-circuit labyrinth

Here the boundary lines are shown.
On the top left we see the original labyrinth, on the right side is the dual to it.
On the bottom left we see the complementary to the original (on top), on the right side is the dual to it.
However, this dual one is also the complementary to the dual on top.

The first 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The first 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The first walk-through labyrinth shows the same way as in the original labyrinth if I go to the left. If I go to the right, surprisingly the way is the same as in the complementary labyrinth of the dual one.

And the second one?

The second 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The second 9-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The left way corresponds to the dual labyrinth of the original. The right way, however, to the complementary labyrinth of the original.

Now we look again at a self-dual labyrinth, an 11-circuit labyrinth which was developed from the enlarged seed pattern.

An 11-circuit labyrinth in Knidos style

An 11-circuit labyrinth in Knidos style

The left one is the original labyrinth with the circuit sequence:
0-5-2-3-4-1-6-11-8-9-10-7-12

The right one shows the complementary one with the circuit sequence:
0-7-10-9-8-11-6-1-4-3-2-5-12

The test by addition (without the first and the last digit):
12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12-12

Once more we construct the matching walk-through labyrinth:

The 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth

The 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth

Again we see the original and the complementary labyrinth combined in one figure. If we read the sequences of circuits forwards and backwards we also see that both labyrinths are mirror-symmetric. This also applies to the previous walk-through labyrinths.

Now this are of all labyrinth-theoretical considerations. However, has there been such a labyrinth already as a historical labyrinth? By now I never met a 7- or 9-circuit labyrinth, but already an 11-circuit walk-through labyrinth when I explored the Babylons on the Solovetsky Islands (see related posts below). Besides, I have also considered how these labyrinths have probably originated. Certainly not from the precalled theoretical considerations, but rather from a “mutation” of the 11-circuit Troy Towns in the Scandinavian countrys. And connected through that with another view of the labyrinth in this culture.

There is an especially beautiful specimen of a 15-circuit Troy Town under a lighthouse on the Swedish island Rödkallen in the Gulf of Bothnia.

A 15-circuit Troy Town on the island Rödkallen

A 15-circuit Troy Town on the island Rödkallen, photo courtesy of Swedish Lapland.com, © Göran Wallin

It has an open middle and the bifurcation for the choice of the way. This article by Göran Wallin on the website Swedish Lapland.com reports more on Swedish labyrinths.

For me quite a special quality appears in these labyrinths, even if there is joined a change of paradigm.

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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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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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And vice versa: How to make a Wunderkreis from a Babylonian visceral labyrinth.

That’s possible, at least with the Babylonian Umma Labyrinth.

The essentials of a labyrinth ly in the course of the pathway expressed by the level sequence, not the external form or layout. More exactly Andreas calls this the pattern.

The Babylonian Umma Labyrinth

The Babylonian Umma Labyrinth

The Umma labyrinth has two turning points surrounded by two circuits each and a meander in the middle. The two entries ly outside. There is only one, unequivocal way through the labyrinth.

The Wunderkreis has a double spiral in the centre and two other turning points with arbitrarily many circuits. Besides, a side has a circuit more than the other. The entries are in the middle section.

A large Wunderkreis

A large Wunderkreis

In order to indicate the single developing steps I first transform a “completely developed” Wunderkreis into the smallest possible version.

It looks thus: A meander in the middle and two other turning points with a total of three circuits as to be seen in the labyrinth type Knossos.

The smallest Wunderkreis

The smallest Wunderkreis

To be able to compare this small Wunderkreis to the Umma labyrinth, I lay all centres (at the same time the ends of the boundary lines or the turning points) on a single line. Just as if I folded the triangle built from the turning points.

The compressed Wunderkreis

The compressed Wunderkreis

Both entries are here in the middle section, in the Umma labyrinth they are outside and side by side. Besides, there is one more circuit on the left side. Now I add one circuit to the figure and the entry will change to the outer side on the right as well.

One more circuit

One more circuit

I now turn the second entry to the left side. As a result, the two entries  point in different directions.

The two entries outside

The two entries outside

Hence, I turn the right entry completely to the outer side on the left beside the left entry. As I do that geometrically correct, two empty areas appear.

The two entries side by side

The two entries side by side

Now I extend both entry paths by a quarter rotation upwards and turn the whole figure to the right by some degrees . Thus I receive the complete Umma labyrinth.

The Babylonian Umma Labyrinth

The Babylonian Umma Labyrinth

If I want to develop the Wunderkreis from the Umma labyrinth, I must leave out some circuits, turn the whole figure and finally raise the middle part.

The nucleus

The nucleus

The supplements made in the preceding steps are emphasised in colour. The nucleus of the visceral labyrinth contains the Wunderkreis.

Surely the Wunderkreis as we know it nowadays was not developed in this way. There are no historical documents to prove that. However, in my opinion the relationship of both labyrinth figures can be proved thereby. They are not simply spirals or meanders. These elements are rather included and connected in a “labyrinthine” way.

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In the article by Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Sawards Caerdroia 42 (March 2014)  there is the picture of a visceral drawing on a clay tablet which is older than those we have seen before (see related posts below).

Clay tablet with diagram

Clay tablet from Umma of Old Babylonian times, photo courtesy of the Louvre

The clay tablet with the visceral drawings was found in the old Sumerian city of Umma, the today’s Tell Jokha in Iraq. It dates from the time about 1900 – 1600 B.C. and you can now see it in the Louvre under the number AO 6033.
The photo can be found in the cuneiform digital library initiative of the University of California, Los Angeles, under the CDLI number P 386355.

Unfortunately, the tablet is damaged. Nevertheless, the missing lines can be reconstructed perfectly and then show the following plan:

The visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033

The visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033

The alignment reminds very strongly of the so-called Berlin labyrinth on the clay tablet VAT 744 at the Vorderasiatisches Museum of Berlin which is some hundred years younger.

The visceral drawing on tablet VAT 744

The visceral drawing on tablet VAT 744

Despite the resemblance the lines in the visceral drawing on tablet AO 6033 show a completely different labyrinth.
The path (Ariadne’s thread) inside the tablet ascertained from the boundary lines looks thus:

Ariadne's thread in the visceral drawing on AO 6033

Ariadne’s thread in the visceral drawing on AO 6033

Based on these lines I construct a geometrically exact figure consisting of arc elements. The midpoints of them can be arranged on a single line.

Ariadne's thread geometrically correct

Ariadne’s thread geometrically correct

After that I construct the boundary lines around the same midpoints and will obtain the complete labyrinth:

The labyrinth

The labyrinth

The alignment is completely different from the one of the Berlin labyrinth. In the middle there is a kind of a double spiral. Besides there are two turning points. The two sickle-shaped empty areas are remarkable.

Anyway we see an hitherto unknown walk-through labyrinth. Maybe even the oldest one proved so far? In any case, it is older than the example on the tablet of Pylos.

How should one name it? Referring to the proposals of Andreas maybe: The Babylonian Umma labyrinth.


Who would like to draw or build such a labyrinth as a walkable one? The following drawing offers the necessary information. The measurements are to be understood as units. So “1” can be: 1 cm, 10 cm, 60 cm, 1 metre, 1 yard, 1 foot, 2 feet, a step length, a stick and the like.

The layout drawing

The layout drawing

One best goes forward as follows: Fix a line, divide it into 16 parts, mark the mid points of the circles, then make the arcs with a string, wire, circle, tape or the like.  The radii are a multiple of the unity, so R2 means 2 times the unity etc.

The labyrinth can be drawn with compass and pencil on paper or can be scratched as a walkable labyrinth into the sand, strewn with sawdust or laid with stones or similar. The two accesses can be arranged by wish. It would make it easier to begin with the arcs above the line.

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While dealing with the Babylonian labyrinths in the detailed and excellent article of Richard Myers Shelton in Jeff Saward’s Caerdroia 42 (March 214) I also saw the following illustrations of sacrificed sheep’s guts. They are all different and served as patterns for extispicy.
They look similar to labyrinths, because they are depicted as one single uninterrupted line. Nevertheless, they have no center, rather two entrances/exits which mostly lie side by side. One could call them walk-through labyrinths or “prelabyrinthine”.

Clay tablets with diagrams of sheep's guts

Clay tablets with diagrams of sheep’s guts

To our today’s usual Western notion a labyrinth is a figure with one single path free of crossings leading to the centre and back again.

Does a relationship to “our” labyrinth exist in these intestinal loops or can they possibly be transformed into such?
This works, and as an example I choose the well recognizable drawing on the left clay tablet E 3384 (marked with a red cross).

Note from September 2017: Meanwhile I finished a drawing named E 3384 r_8 for the template.

Drawings from the clay tablet E 3384 recto

Drawings from the clay tablet E 3384 recto

Template for a visceral labyrinth

Template for a visceral Labyrinth

In it I determine the path sequence of the side by side lying intestinal loops and number them from the left to the right. The entrance lies in the middle and on the right side I leave the figure.

The layout of the visceral labyrinth

The layout of the visceral labyrinth

The pattern of the Labyrinth thus becomes visible. I read the order in which the single loops will be passed through: 5-6-9-2-3-8-7-4-1-10.

Using this path sequence I construct a closed, more round labyrinth in which the way ends in the centre.

Conversion of the path sequence into a closed round labyrinth

Conversion of the path sequence into a closed round labyrinth

I get a labyrinth with three turning points and nine circuits. Now this can still be reshaped by twisting and shifting the turning points. I can also choose a bigger middle and straighten the figure more centrally to the perpendicular bisectors of the sides.
Then it looks like this:

The visceral labyrinth in Knidos style

The visceral labyrinth in Knidos style

In front of us we have a new, hitherto unknown labyrinth. The path sequence is: 0-5-6-9-2-3-8-7-4-1-10. I walk directly into the internal area of the labyrinth and  I also go round the centre very quickly with 0-5-6-9. Then I walk outwardly and through the whole internal area with -2-3-8-7-4. From here I come to the outermost circuit once again and then with a big jump I arrive at the centre: -1-10. The alignment seems to be very dynamic and with a lot of movement. One should feel that when walking the labyrinth.

Who is the first to build such a labyrinth?

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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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