The Lost Labyrinth of Ancient Egypt

The Lost Labyrinth of Ancient Egypt – Part 1

(Read the article on one page)

This I have actually seen, a work beyond words. For if anyone put together the buildings of the Greeks and display of their labours, they would seem lesser in both effort and expense to this labyrinth… Even the pyramids are beyond words, and each was equal to many and mighty works of the Greeks. Yet the labyrinth surpasses even the pyramids.

These are the words of ancient Greek historian Herodotus written in the 5 th century BC (‘Histories’, Book, II, 148), describing a colossal temple said to contain 3,000 rooms full of hieroglyphs and paintings. It was named ‘Labyrinth’ by the Greeks after the complex maze of corridors designed by Daedalus for King Minos of Crete, where the legendary Minotaur dwelt. Yet today, nothing remains of this supposedly grand temple complex – at least not on the surface. The mighty labyrinth became lost to the pages of history.

Herodotus was not the only historian to describe the labyrinth of ancient Egypt. The massive temple complex was described by many classic authors, including Manetho Aegyptiaca (3 rd century BC), Diodorus Siculus (1 st century BC), Strabo (64 BC – 19 AD), Pliny (23 – 79 AD), and Pomponius Mela (c 43 AD), and at least two of whom claimed to have seen the labyrinth first-hand.

Herodotus was the first to describe the labyrinth of Egypt. In the second book of his ‘History’, the Greek writer gave the following account:

It has twelve courts covered in, with gates facing one another, six upon the North side and six upon the South, joining on one to another, and the same wall surrounds them all outside; and there are in it two kinds of chambers, the one kind below the ground and the other above upon these, three thousand in number, of each kind fifteen hundred. The upper set of chambers we ourselves saw;… but the chambers underground we heard about only… For the passages through the chambers, and the goings this way and that way through the courts, which were admirably adorned, afforded endless matter for marvel, as we went through from a court to the chambers beyond it, and from the chambers to colonnades, and from the colonnades to other rooms, and then from the chambers again to other courts. Over the whole of these is a roof made of stone like the walls; and the walls are covered with figures carved upon them, each court being surrounded with pillars of white stone fitted together most perfectly; and at the end of the labyrinth, by the corner of it, there is a pyramid of forty fathoms, upon which large figures are carved, and to this there is a way made under ground. Such is this labyrinth.

Based on the detailed descriptions provided by Herodotus, and other ancient historians, Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar and polymath, produced the first pictorial reconstructions. At the centre of the drawing is a maze, which is surrounded by twelve courts described by Herodotus.

The diagram of the Egyptian labyrinth

The diagram of the Egyptian labyrinth produced by 17 th-century German scholar, Athanasius Kircher

It is not clear whether the Egyptian temple was described as a labyrinth simply because it was so huge and so complex that one could easily become lost, or whether it was intentionally designed as a maze where one had to find their own way through it. Ancient Greek historian, Strabo, who also claimed to have visited the temple, wrote in his geography book 17, I, 3, 37 and 42:

... Before the entrances there lie what might be called hidden chambers which are long and many in number and have paths running through one another which twist and turn, so that no one can enter or leave any court without a guide.

Roman geographer Pomponius Mela (1 st century AD), in his ‘Chorographia’ Book I, 9, 56, describes the temples as having “innumerable paths” which “cause great perplexity both because of their continual winding and because of their porticoes which often reverse their direction.” The Roman army commander and philosopher, Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) in his Natural History book 36, 84-89, also describes the labyrinth as a “bewildering maze of paths”, adding that, not only did individuals who entered the temple have to navigate through a confusing array of ramps, porticoes, rooms, and stairs, but they were also confronted with “a fearful noise of thunder” and had to pass through the chambers in darkness.

There is a high level of consistency between the different descriptions of the labyrinth written over six centuries between the 5 th century BC to the 1 st century AD. All of them, for example, describe a roof made out of a single stone slab, and all of the accounts are in agreement about its immense beauty. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus (1 st century BC) gives one of the most colourful descriptions:

Comments

rbflooringinstall's picture

Awesome article! I can't wait for part II !

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

No doubt that the ancient engineers crafted more than just vast temple complexes and temples. These folks were well supplied with skills and knowledge passed on from our ancient Elders. So, these chambers and mazes were complicated pathways to areas where information could be gleened, and studied. Of course, they were also traps of the wildest imagination. The 5th cnt BC tourist/'historian' Mr H. has been found to have elaborated his sightings and aclaims through-out the ages hence. Though he surely saw the things and places he wrote about, he too was totally blown away when stroke numb by the incredible Pyramids and ask's "by whom did this become such a site/place?

Wow, our shared ancient histories are a very real mystery, and the older the structure, or artifact, the more the mainstream scholars 'poo-pah' it's very existence.
What do they say about the mazes and passages between the Sphinx and the Pyramids. They've no idea.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Asokan pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India.
Centuries removed from the prehistoric Indus Valley Region, the Mauryan and Kushan dynasties are among the most significant cultural and artistic regimes in Indian history. The prominence of the Mauryan's longest leader, and the interactions of the Kushan with their Persian, Chinese, and Greek neighbors creates distinctive visual narratives that have shaped the culture of India as it is today.

Human Origins

Detail of ‘God creating the Sun, the Moon and the Stars’ by Jan Brueghel the Younger.
Although most mainstream scientists and most of the developed world now accept the theory of evolution and the scientifically established age of Earth and the universe, there is still a group of people that resist the status quo and insist, based on a particular literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11 in the Hebrew Bible

Ancient Technology

Representation of an ancient Egyptian chariot.
The wheel can be considered mankind’s most important invention, the utility of which is still applied in multiple spheres of our daily life. While most other inventions have been derived from nature itself, the wheel is 100% a product of human imagination. Even today, it would be difficult to imagine what it would be like without wheels, since movement as we know it would be undeniably impossible.

Ancient Places

Asokan pillar at Vaishali, Bihar, India.
Centuries removed from the prehistoric Indus Valley Region, the Mauryan and Kushan dynasties are among the most significant cultural and artistic regimes in Indian history. The prominence of the Mauryan's longest leader, and the interactions of the Kushan with their Persian, Chinese, and Greek neighbors creates distinctive visual narratives that have shaped the culture of India as it is today.

Opinion

El Caracol Observatory at Chichen Itza (Wright Reading/CC BY-NC 2.0) and Composite 3D laser scan image of El Caracol from above
In 1526, the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo arrived on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and found most of the great Maya cities deeply eroded and unoccupied. Many generations removed from the master builders, engineers, and scientists who conceived and built the cities, the remaining Maya they encountered had degenerated into waring groups who practiced blood rituals and human sacrifice.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article