Labyrinths & Mazes Resource Centre, Photo Library & Archive
In dealing with a subject as varied and complex as labyrinths and mazes, it is essential
to make definitions that can be clearly explained. The first task is to clarify the
difference between a labyrinth and a maze. While the terms are often used interchangeably,
many historians and enthusiasts are passionate about which is which. Look up the
words in a good dictionary and you will probably conclude that a maze is a labyrinth
and a labyrinth is a maze...
However, in the English-speaking world it is often considered that to qualify as
a maze, a design must have choices in the pathway. Clearly, this multicursal category
will include many of the modern installations in entertainment parks and tourist
attractions, which exist solely for the purpose of perplexing visitors, as well as
the traditional hedges mazes in public parks and private gardens around the world.
Popular consensus also indicates that labyrinths have one pathway that leads inexorably
from the entrance to the goal, albeit often by the most complex and winding of routes.
These unicursal designs have been known as labyrinths for thousands of years, and
to qualify as a labyrinth, a design should have but one path. However, the dividing
line between what constitutes a maze or a labyrinth can sometimes become blurred,
as mazes with single paths and labyrinths with more than one path can exist, although
their intent is usually clear from their designs.
While this debate is easily resolved, much more discussion has surrounded attempts
to establish a system of classification for different types of labyrinths and mazes.
During the last fifty years various systems have been proposed to define the individual
forms of labyrinths and mazes. They are often over-complicated and confusing to the
general reader. The system given here is designed for clarity and relative simplicity,
and is based largely on structural differences, classified according to cultural
and developmental origins.