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labyrinth


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[Co]

A complicated and elaborate arrangement of passages or pathways in which it is easy to get lost and difficult to find the way out. The best‐known labyrinth is the legendary example in Crete that was inhabited by the Minotaur who was eventually killed by Theseus with a little help and a ball of string from King Midas' daughter Ariadne. Egyptian labyrinths are also known and the tradition of creating mazes as open‐topped labyrinths was widespread in the ancient world. They probably represent dancing grounds on which were performed intricate dances representing the passage of the soul from life to death and back again. There was a curious revival of the tradition of making mazes in the Middle Ages, sponsored by the church; several French and Italian cathedrals have them set into the floor. The hedge‐mazes found in gardens are only indirectly related to these early forms; they derive from the Italian geometrical style of gardening which spread through Europe in the 16th century ad. See also Knossos.

Subjects: Archaeology.


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