As mythology would have it, when Daedalus arrived in Crete, he was welcome at the court of Minos and his wife, Pasiphae. It didn’t take long for him to get into a complex situation there. Because Minos had kept a white bull given to him by Poseidon for the purpose of sacrifice, Poseidon had caused Pasiphae physically desire the pull.
Frightened by her desires, she asked Daedalus to fashion a wooden cow so she could hide and fulfill a relationship with the bull. As the story goes, she became pregnant and bore the Minotaur, a creature with a human body and a bull’s head. Out of fear, Minos asked Daedalus to build a Labyrinth from which her son, the Minotaur could not escape.
Now, a team of scholars has discovered a disused stone on the Crete, which some belief could be the original site of the ancient Labyrinth. The quarry is riddled with an elaborate network of underground tunnels that mirror the mythical maze that is believed to have once housed the half-bull, half-man Minotaur.
The Anglo-Greek team of scholars who undertook an expedition to the site this summer believes that the near town of Gortyn has as much claim to the location of the Labyrinth as the Minoan palace at Knossos 20 miles away, which has been synonymous with the Minotaur myth. Anyone who has visited the ruins at Knossos has been told it is believed to have once been the home of King Minos.
Nicholas Howarth, an Oxford University geographer who led the expedition, says that there is a danger of Gortyn being lost from the story of the Labyrinth because of the connection to Greek mythology.
“People come not just to see the controversial ruins excavated and reconstructed by Evans, but also to seek a connection to the mythical past of the Age of Heroes,” Howarth commented.
In fact, the caves in Gortyn, which are known locally as the Labyrinthos Caves, consist of about two and a half miles of interlocking tunnels with widened chambers and dead-end rooms. They have been visited since medieval times by travelers looking for the Labyrinth, but have been widely neglected since Knossos was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century.
“If we look at the archaeological facts, it is extremely difficult to say that a Labyrinth ever existed…I think that each site has its claim to the mystery of the Labyrinth, but in the end, there are questions that neither archaeology nor mythology can ever completely hope to answer,” Howarth concluded.