Centuries of Confusion

Imagine a rope maze hanging like a giant spider web. Or a water maze. How about a turf maze?

Today there are a growing number of life-size mazes you can fit your whole body into. Especially popular in the United States are cornfield or "maize" mazes on farms. Some people call them "living sculptures," because at the end of the fall they are plowed under and vanish.

Adrian Fisher, an Englishman, has designed more than 135 mazes of all shapes and sizes around the world. Some of his maize mazes have been in The Guinness Book of World Records. In his rope maze, you clip yourself to a thick, colored rope and follow it under and over other ropes. If others are doing it with you, watch out for traffic jams! He has also built a water maze in which 208 fountain jets form "walls" of water and "doorways" that appear and disappear.

Actually, mazes have been around for thousands of years. The earliest ones had only one path to follow. They were called labyrinths. One ancient Greek legend features the Minotaur, a fierce creature that was half bull and half man. The Minotaur lived in a labyrinth. According to the story, a hero named Theseus (THEE-see-us) found his way to the middle and killed the beast.

Labyrinths appear on old Cretan coins and in Roman ruins. Some ancient "turf" labyrinths were carved into the sod in England and remain today. The classic labyrinth has even been found on an ancient native American rock carving near Casa Grande, Ariz.

In the 1600s, labyrinths became more like puzzles, or mazes, with lots of winding paths to choose from. Rich kings and queens, for instance, built mazes out of rows of tall bushes, or hedges, and got lost for fun.

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