Labyrinths of Bolshoi Zayatsky Island


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Labyrinths are rare through out the world and are valuable archaeological monuments. In the world approximately 300 have been preserved . The 13 – 14 stone labyrinths found on Bolshoi Zayatsky Island belong to the best preserved ones found anywhere on the planet.

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These labyrinths are made of stones which have been laid on the surface of soil. Although just 1.35 kilometres square Bolshoi Zayatsky Island is actually one of the 6 large Solovetsky Islands. The island covered with boulders, moss and large bushes is renowned for its unique collection of Neolithic structures – stone labyrinths, barrows and ancient sanctuaries all dating back to 3,000 BC. The labyrinths are concentrated in a small area on the western part of the island. The diameter of the labyrinths is between six and twenty-four metres and they are for the most part formed of boulders set in a row. The rows are twisted in the form of a spiral. Often there are two spirals set one into another resembling two serpents with their heads in the middle looking at each other. Along the spiral there are intermittent wider heaps of stones and the ends of the spirals are widened as well. Although the labyrinths have five types of setting, each one of them has got one entrance, which also serves as an exit. Their purpose is a mystery, though it has been suggested that they can symbolise a border between our world and the underworld and that the labyrinth was used for specific rituals to help the souls of the deceased travel to another world. In the eastern part of the island there is another enormous complex of stone settings, which does not include any labyrinths.

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In 1702 Peter the Great visited Solovetsky and it was upon his orders that the Andreevsky Monastery was built. Its appearance is not common for the Russian North and is more in keeping with churches of central Russia. The low quadrangle of the structure is covered with four sloping roofs crowned with a small cupola. On its eastern side there is a fivecorner altar attached to it and on the western side a small refectory. Although officially the settlement on Bolshoi Zayatsky Island did not belong to the Monastery hermitages, it was here that the Archimandrite’s chamber was situated, as well as a house for visiting officials, a cellar, a kitchen, a stable and other smaller household buildings. In the 18th century a ‘quarantine outpost’ of the Monastery was placed here to prevent the smuggling of wines.

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