Mystery of the Bolshoi Zayatsky Island


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Tired of all those world famous ruins? Want to discover something that is still shrouded in mystery? Head to Bolshoi Zayatsky Island in Russia to try and uncover the secrets of dozens of centuries old labyrinths.

The labyrinths are thought to be thousands of years old

The labyrinths are thought to be thousands of years old

It is difficult to imagine that nowadays, in the age of Google and social media, when everyone seems to know everything there are still places and artefacts shrouded in mystery. While few will argue about the merits of knowing everything, it is somehow comforting to know that there are still things that even the brightest minds cannot explain. For some places, the air of mystery that clouds their origins has led to them becoming world famous, think of Stonehenge, China's Terracota Army or even the Sphinx. However, there are also those areas which are almost as unknown as their origins. One such place is Bolshoi Zayatsky Island.

The Bolshoi Zayatsky Island is part of the Solovetsky Islands, are an archipelago, comprised of six islands, located in the Onega Bay of the Russia's White Sea . Historically the Solovetsky Islands are famous as the site of the 15th century Russian Orthodox Solovetsky Monastery, one of the most influential religious centers in all of Russia. Known through history as an almost impenetrable fortress, the monastery acted as a Soviet prison and labor camp between 1926 and 1939. In 1974 the Solovetsky Islands were designated a historical and architectural museum and a natural reserve of the Soviet Union. They would go on to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, becoming one of the first Russian sites to make it on the list.

Solovetsky Monastery became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992

Solovetsky Monastery became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992

However, despite Solovetsky Monastery's undeniable cultural and historical significance as well as being one of the main tourist magnets in the entirety of the Russian North, it is another historical monument that makes Bolshoi Zayatsky Island so fascinating. The Island is dotted with the ruins of approximately a dozen ancient labyrinths. Measuring between 6 and 25 meters in diameter, the labyrinths are mostly made of boulders which are laid out in a row. The official number of labyrinths is estimated at between 13 and 14, as well as some 850 heaps of boulders, all set out in an orderly manner.

A group of researchers from St. Petersburg have estimated that the stones are around 2,500 years old, however there are also those that believe them to be as old as 3,000 years. Just as their age, their purpose remains a mystery. Among the numerous theories of what labyrinths were used for, there are two that stand out as most probable. According to the first the labyrinth represents a border between this world and the underworld and the labyrinth may have been used for specific rituals to help the souls of the dead travel to the afterlife. The second theory proposes that the complex pattern in which the stones were laid out was used as a fishing trap; however this theory has been contested since most of the labyrinths are too far inland.

Whatever the reason behind the construction of the labyrinths at Bolshoi Zayatsky Island, the one thing that is certain is that they give an already naturally beautiful landscape rich in history an extra coating of mystery and magic.

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Posted on 11/06/2017 15 shares
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