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Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel - From the song "Windmills of my mind"

It can be hard to say what is a maze and what isn't. Most of the patterns on this page are not usually thought of as mazes, but their shapes remind me of maze, so I think of them as pre-maze designs.
The red diagrams show the path you would walk through a maze. A blue diagram shows the walls of the maze.


The simplest maze type pattern of all is the ordinary spiral. Most people would not think of this as a maze at all, and you might get dizzy walking it, but all maze patterns do spiral into the centre, however they twist and turn on the way. Spirals look amazing if you put them on a turntable and rotate them slowly. (What's a turntable? I hear you say...)

Cup and Ring Marks

Cup and ring marks are Stone Age marks carved on rocks, mostly in northern England and Scotland, with a few in Dorset.
Cup and Ring marks The design on the left is one of the Achnabreck Cup and Ring marks in Argyll & Bute, Scotland. It looks like a proto-maze. There is also a double spiral next to it (see right). Double spiral

The designs below come from Northumberland, and were shown in the BBC TV programme, Countryfile, on March 16 2003. The filled-in circles in the middle are the cup marks, and are deeper than the grooves. These patterns are my interpretation of what I saw. There is a good website about the rock art of Northumbria with some photos.

Cup and Ring marks Cup and Ring marks Cup and Ring marks

Cup and ring marks from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Here are some more cup and ring marks. The stone came from Bowling Dunbartonshire, and dates from 3000-1700 BC. It is in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Newgrange path


Newgrange, in County Meath, Ireland, is a large prehistoric passage grave, dated around 3500 BC. It has wonderful carvings of double spirals, which are not normally thought of as mazes. However Robert Graves in "The White Goddess" pointed out that if you trace with your finger a passage from the edge to the centre, you can also return to the outside again along a different path. He suggested that it was a symbol of Death and Rebirth. The coloured diagram shows the two paths.
Newgrange colours

Greek Key

The Greek Key is an ancient pattern, used in Mediterranean vases and in mosaics. One suggestion is that it is a representation of waves (square ones!) This form is a repeated square spiral, but there are other forms, such as repeated crosses. No-one thinks of Greek Keys as mazes, but you do progress onwards in a confusing way. If you take four "keys" and twist them round into a circle - behold, a maze! You can spot Greek Key twists in many mazes. Look at the Roman mazes in particular. The Cretan maze unwinds into a Greek key.

See my website on Greek keys for more information, including many different forms of Greek keys, how to construct your own, Greek key corners, and much more. There are also some Greek key designs here, made using an online mosaic designer.

Key 1 Key 2 Key 3 Key 3

Nazca Nazca walls

Nazca spiral

The Nazca plain in Peru has large figures laid out on the ground. They were made from about 200 BC until about AD 600, and they are still there because there is practically no rain. There are animals and other shapes, including the above, which might be a maze. There is one theory that these shapes were walked through for ritual purposes. This design would make a good small maze, as there is a long way in and a short way out. The blue diagram shows the walls for such a maze.

Walls of Jericho

Walls of Jericho

This is a maze. It is in a Hebrew manuscript, and called the Walls of Jericho. It has the same form as the Nazca shape, only with more levels, and no path out again. It shows that mazes can be made from these simple patterns.

Some Cretan mazes are called Jericho.

A maze from Hanover, Germany

Hanover path Hanover colours Hanover rectangle

Here is another way to make a maze using the Nazca spiral. It only has one level, but that has a very long path, with the turn-arounds nested inside each other. You could combine this technique with the Hebrew technique for a more complicated maze.

The first diagram shows the path, but it is easy to get confused with all those lines going back and forth, so I have redrawn it in colours. You start on red, which turns to orange, then yellow, and so on through the rainbow. The last diagram looks strange, but what I have done is cut from the bottom of the maze to the middle, being careful not to cut through a path. Then I uncurled the maze so it made a rectangle. I kept the colours the same, so, hopefully, you can see what's going on.

Irish Spiral pattern

A spiral pattern from Ireland

This is carved in stone. You can see it in the National Museum of Ireland in Kildare Street, Dublin. It is really a pattern, not a maze, but you could think of it as a branching maze. The original is worn, and it's a little difficult to see how the pattern goes, but I think that it's something like the pattern on the left. However, you could have a similar pattern as on the right. If you travel on the red paths, you may think of it as a maze with seven centres.
Irish Spiral pattern

Triple spiral pattern

A triple spiral pattern

This triple spiral pattern was sent me by AnonMoos. He has more patterns on his website. The pattern gives the walls of the maze, so I've drawn them in blue.

It is a cunning pattern made of double spirals, so each spiral path goes into its centre, then out again to lead onto the next spiral, ending up between all three spirals. You can see this on the right, where I've drawn the path instead, and coloured it red, then orange, then yellow, then green.

Triple spiral pattern

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is a modern sculpture, an example of Land Art. It was made by Robert Smithson, in 1970. It juts into the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah. The stones are local basalt, and originally looked black against the water of the lake, which sometimes looks red round there, because of the small red brine shrimps, which are the only living thing that can live in the water. However, the level of the Great Salt Lake rose, and submerged the Spiral Jetty. When it emerged again, as the lake level fell, the stones were covered in salt crystals, and look white.

The photo is taken from Google Maps - enter "Rozel Point" and choose Satellite.

Triple spiral pattern

Celtic Knots

Tilted Knot Celtic knots cannot really be described as mazes. They don't usually have a start or a finish, and the strings weave over and under each other. However they are patterns formed by one or more lines. Modern mazes are sometimes three dimensional, with the paths using bridges to cross each other, so you could use Celtic Knots as the basis for a maze. See my Celtic Knots website for more about Celtic knots, including different ways of drawing them, and many historical examples. There are also some examples of Celtic Knots here using an online triangular mosaic designer.