Mysterious labyrinths in the Russian North

In north-western Russia, the Kolski peninsula, travelers can find a large stone mazes, at least 4000 years old. The most accepted scientific explanation is that the patterns of circular shapes serve as signposts to kingdom of the dead. But there are those who want to prove different hypotheses, for example, that labyrinths were kind of resourcefully designed lighthouses.


In early October, Researchers of the organization “Kosmopoisk”  finished their expedition to Kolski peninsula in north-west Russia, where it was discovered more than five mysterious stone labyrinths. Some of these archaeological monuments were created two thousand years BC what makes them older than the Egyptian pyramids. Science associates these mysterious labyrinths with religious beliefs of the people of the north. However, the director of “Kosmopoisk” Vadim Černobrov and his team want to prove that the labyrinths had another purpose – they believe that the stone labyrinth patterns  served as a kind of “lighthouse” to ancient sailors.

 Where did circles come from?

To the most famous labyrinth above the Arctic Circle of Russia can be reached on foot from the town of Kandalaksha in the south of Kolski peninsula (the northwestern Russia, 1296 kilometers north of Moscow). The trail leads through the pine forest, and volunteers of local environmental organizations have put the signs up to the maze to ease the way for tourists.

Ancient builders have built perfectly circular maze on the peninsula. Stone made passages of the labyrinth are overgrown with grass and moss.  There is large slab with an inscription that the archaeological monument was created two thousand years before Christ which proves that this place is unique.

You can find the same labyrinths or “Babylons”,  as scientists call them, on the banks of the White and Barents Sea, in the Scandinavian countries and on the British Isles. Their purpose still hasn’t been established. The scientists on this issue divided into two camps. Some believe that the labyrinths used in shamanic rituals. Scientists are divided on this issue. Some believe that the labyrinths were used in shamanic rituals. Others believe that “Babylons” had a practical purpose – they could be used for fishing or as landmarks for sailors.

“Sailors needed to mark the places where they could safely dock, as well as the places from which they could set sail into the ocean”, believes Vadim Černobrov. “Because of the fear of the storm in ancient times, people have tried to sail along the coast, but in many places they made shortcuts sailing through the bays or on the high seas. Labyrinths were signposts which showed the way along the coast for the ancient sailors.”

Hypothesis and Evidence

To prove their theory, the participants of the expedition made thoroughly investigation of the ancient mazes. They tried to establish from which distances were they visible from the sea. In the opinion of Vadim Černobrova, labyrinths were made circular so the sailors could see them from a distance of several kilometers throughout the polar day, regardless of the position of the sun.

During the expedition researchers have noticed that the maze is never in the shadow of rocks or trees, but always  sunlighted. It is interesting that the labyrinth is visible today, although it is covered with moss and lichen. The contours of the labyrinth are clearly visible even in winter, under the snow thickness of 10 to 20 centimeters. In case of more snow the voyage would be delayed by spring.

 In scientific circles, this hypothesis of researchers from “Kosmopoisk” encounters a disapproval. Most of the scientists belives that “babylons” weer used in ancient religious ceremonies, for example, in ceremonies which invoked a rich fish catch.  Circular patterns could serve as “signposts” into the kingdom of dead which prevented the soul of the deceased to come back to the world of living.

Version involving the mysterious labyrinths as landmarks for sailors scientists consider unprofessionally. “Can supporters of such hypotheses specify at least one historical source in which one of the sailors, claims that maze  helped him in the orientation? Most likely not. Such sources are not known to me, and science must rely on historical data, “says research associate of Murmansk district regional museum Konstantin Kotkin.

A good catch in the maze

In scientific articles and studies of labyrinths we find another hypothesis. Since “babylons” were built by the sea, in places rich in fish, ancients perhaps used it for fishing. Fish would fall into the complex maze at high tide and could not emerge from it during the low tide. In this hypothesis also hardly anyone believes.

In the opinion of Kotkin, in order to catch fish that way, it would be necessary to build a lot of mazes at small distance such as fishermen set network. It is, of course, impossible.

The issue of when the labyrinths were created is also questionable. In the mid of 0th century the scientists estimated their age at 4000 years. Modern researchers claim that the stone labyrinths were created much later.

“Scientists have not yet agreed on the age and use of labyrinths. There is no exact answer to these questions,” says Kotkin. “Labyrinths do not reveal anything, so it is very difficult to collect reliable evidence and that is why there are different assumptions. The most important thing is that all hypotheses base on already proven facts. In any case, labyrinths are undoubtedly valuable archaeological objects that speak about the unique history of the Russian North. “


Source: Russia Beyond The Headlines

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