What is it about humans that make us love — and hate — being lost? Since the time of ancient Greece, we’ve been figuring out ways to entertain ourselves within extraordinarily confusing structures.
There are dozens of different types of mazes: there are standard mazes, which feature “multi-route” paths; And labyrinths, which only have single routes. Then there are multicursal mazes, Plainar mazes, Hedge mazes and so on. Below, a collection of 23 fascinating examples give us a glimpse into the cultural history of getting lost — on purpose.
The Hampton Court maze, in London, is one of the most famous hedge mazes in the world. It was planted between 1689 and 1695 by George London and Henry Wise.
Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
This aerial view of Top Pearsy’s Maize Maze, in the shape of Harry Potter, was shot in July, 2011 in York, England. Farmer Tom Pearcy cut two portraits of Harry Potter into his crop of maize plants. At over 45m in diameter, and cut out of over one million living maize plants, the York Maze is the largest Maize Maze in Europe, and one of the largest in the world. And since there are some subtle differences, it’s actually the world’s largest “spot the difference” puzzle too.
Picture: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images
The maze at the Teichland amusement park, near Jaenschwalde, Germany, is probably one of the simplest labyrinths in the world: Just turn right at the entrance. The park opened in 2008 and is part of a broader effort by local authorities to make the region, which is blighted by open-pit lignite coal mines, more attractive to tourists.
Picture: Sean Gallup/Getty Images
A girl navigates an ice maze at the fourth Snow and Ice Tourism Fair, held to usher in the Chinese New Year on January 20, 2009, in Xining of Qinghai Province, China.
Picture: China Photos/Getty Images
This “psychedelic” labyrinth was installed five years ago at the Oktoberfest, in Munich, Germany.
Picture: Johannes Simon/Getty Images
The abandoned Bambiland fun park in Pozarevac, Serbia, 2008. Bambiland was a business project of former president Slobodan Milosevic’s flamboyant only son Marko. The park was abandoned and ransacked by angry citizens after he fled the country in 1999.
Picture: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Likenesses of President Bush and his opponent in the November 2004 general election, John Kerry, are shown carved into a Utah corn field in Pleasant Grove, 50km south of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Picture: George Frey/Getty Images
This sprawling, 14-acre corn maze in the shape of an eagle and the words “God Bless America” is seen in September, 2002 near LaSalle, Colorado. The maze, created by farmer Glen Fritzler, has 3km of pathways and 85 decision points on the way to the exit.
Picture: Kevin Moloney/Getty Images
Soldiers and nurses lost in the maze at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, England.
Picture: Fox Photos/Getty Images
This aerial view of a 10-acre cornfield maze was shot in 2000, in La Union, New Mexico. The local farmer who built the maze is one of many using tourism as a way to supplement their income. The maze was designed using a GPS system to mark out the trail.
Picture: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers/Getty Images
Children play in the “aMAZEme” labyrinth, built using thousands of books, at the Southbank Centre in London, England. Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo used 250,000 books to create this maze.
Picture: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
In this 2011 photo provided by the Seattle Sounders FC, the likeness of the Sounder’s goalkeeper Kasey Keller is featured in a corn maze designed to look like a soccer field on the Schilter Family Farm in Olympia, Washington.
Picture: Seattle Sounders FC, Rod Mar/AP
An unintended maze of corn grows naturally in the fields in Kunar province, Afghanistan.
Picture: David Goldman/AP
Boston Bruins goaltender and playoff MVP Tim Thomas, hoisting the Stanley Cup above his head, was carved into a 12-acre cornfield at Sherman Farm in East Conway, New Hampshire. The maze twists and turns for 5km.
Picture: Green Parrot Aerials, Wayne Peabody/AP
An image of American Idol television star David Archuleta, titled “Archuleta 4 President”, provides the design for the 13th Annual Cornbelly’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Fest at Thanksgiving Point, 2008, in Lehi, Utah.
Picture: Douglas C. Pizac/AP
An aerial view of the corn maze at Cool Patch Pumpkins, in Dixon, California, 2007. At 40 acres, the Guinness Book of World Records has declared it the largest corn maze in the world.
Picture: Matt Cool/AP
A 12-acre cornfield, shaped to resemble a new Utah quarter design, is seen in a photo from 2006 at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. The quarter features two locomotives facing each other, depicting the completion of the trans-American railway.
Picture: Douglas C. Pizac/AP
A Napoleon Dynamite-themed maze, also created at Thanksgiving Point, from 2005. The creation, which also features the words “Utah loves Napoleon”, was done in an eight-acre field.
Picture: The Maize, Robb Costello/AP
Former President Ronald Reagan is the basis for this corn maze from 2004, in Layton, Utah. The labyrinth is eight acres in size and has more than three miles of twists and turns.
Picture: Douglas C. Pizac/AP
A visitor in the “Mirror Maze”, an installation by Canadian artist Ken Lum at the Documenta 11 art show in Kassel, Germany, in 2002.
Picture: Bernd Kammerer/AP
A corn maze in American Fork, Utah, that depicts two dinosaurs, hails from 2000. The maze was designed by Brett Herbst, a maze designer who created his first maize maze in 1995. Since then, he has designed and built mazes in Hawaii, Rhode Island, Louisiana, and Alberta, Canada.
Picture: The Maize/AP
A maze of cellophane in Annaberg-Buchholz, made by artists Robert Glenn Ross West and Markus Mueller in 2012. More than five miles of transparent plastic film were strung between trees to form a labyrinth — described by the artist as a metaphor for life.
Picture: Uwe Meinhold/dapd/AP
This hedge maze at the Andrassy Castle in Tiszadob, Hungary, which resembles a squid is one of Europe’s most beautiful labyrinths.
Picture: Sunion/Wikimedia Commons