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Explore the Labyrinths of Bolshoi Zyatsky Island

As one of the six Solovetsky Islands located in Russia's White Sea, Bolshoi Zayatsky Island features a series of ancient stone labyrinths that are interesting to explore. Labyrinths are considered to be important archaeological monuments, with more than 300 examples found in various locations around the world. The fourteen stone labyrinths on Bolshoi Zayatsky are particularly well preserved and have been documented and speculated about, without any definite conclusions being reached - and so their purpose remains a mystery.

In addition to the labyrinths, as many as 850 heaps of boulders have been found on the island, with excavation of these heaps revealing bone fragments. Other stone formations discovered on the island include a representation of the sun, complete with radial spokes. It is generally agreed that these ancient labyrinths and stone formations were related to spiritual beliefs, and may have symbolized a border of sorts between the material world and the underworld – the mythical abode of the dead. It has therefore been speculated that the labyrinths may have been included in rituals to assist the souls of those who have died to cross over to the underworld.

The labyrinths are constructed from boulders placed on the surface of the ground, and it has been determined that these boulders were gathered locally. The smallest labyrinth measures around six meters in diameter, with the largest being 25.4 meters in diameter. The rows of boulders form spirals, with some consisting of two spirals, described as resembling two serpents with their heads in the center. The entrances to the labyrinths are mostly on the south and while there are five different settings, they each have only one entrance/exit point. All the labyrinths on Bolshoi Zayatsky are found on the western side of the island, while the eastern part of the island features a significant collection of stone formations, but no labyrinths. Although the labyrinths have become quite overgrown with the island's shrub-like vegetation, their shapes remain clearly visible.

Similar labyrinths have been discovered on other islands in the Solovetsky archipelago, as well as at the points where the Umba, Ponoi, Verzuga and Kem rivers flow into the White Sea. It is interesting to note that these stone structures are all located with a view of the sea. In addition to the natural beauty of the island, Bolshoi Zayatsky offers visitors a touch of mystery, and is an interesting addition to a holiday itinerary when visiting the Arkhangelsk Oblast of Russia.


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