10 Amazing Similarities Between Step Pyramids Around The World

Why did civilizations around the world build similar structures?

Architectural structures, as we know, were built already in primitive times: simple huts, primitive huts, as well as megaliths – menhirs, dolmens, and cromlechs. However, the history of architecture as an art, when something else is added to the pure benefit, some kind of additional meaning and striving for beauty, began much later, although also very long ago, several millennia ago.

It was then that the first state formations were born in the fertile valleys of the great rivers – the Nile, Indus, Tigris, and Euphrates. On our planet, there are easily rivers longer and wider, but they are unlikely to be able to surpass these four in importance in the development of civilization.

Of course, the peoples, whose states, replacing each other, dominated in Mesopotamia – first the Sumerians, then the Akkadians, then the Sumerians again, the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Persians – built many grandiose buildings in their capitals. Not a single large city could do without royal palaces and temples to the ancient gods.

The remains of their vast labyrinths are being carefully examined by archaeologists. However, it is difficult for architectural historians to work on this material since only the foundations remained from the adobe buildings, and it is possible to speak about their artistic language only on the basis of architectural plans.

However, one type of structure was not so badly preserved and, moreover, still retains its influence on the art of architecture. Of course, this is the ziggurat – a type of step pyramid with a temple on top.

Now, while ziggurats are artificial stepped mountains made of mud and bricks, similar step pyramids made from stone appeared all over the world in later periods in history. Of course, the existence of similar structures at different locations around the globe is one of history’s greatest mysteries and this will be the focus of this article.

Well, not the case of how and why they exist but what similarities they share despite being made by different cultures of different ages in different continents.

10 Amazing Similarities Between Step Pyramids Around The World

1. One of the first things that archaeologists point out about step pyramids around the world is that most were not built all at once. In other words, the structures were built in phases, with the different layers being built over time by subsequent generations or rulers. 

2. In the same sense, certain monuments of this type around the world were not step pyramids in their original form. Some were built as a simple platform that still had religious or cultural purposes but were constructed as a step pyramid much later in time. Other than that, pyramids in Mesoamerica were often rebuilt to glorify the latest ruler which, according to the ancient beliefs, strengthened the rulers’ connection to the gods.

3. Let’s take the step pyramid El Castillo, located among the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, or most Mayan pyramids in general. Most of these structures combine features of both ziggurats and Egyptian pyramids. In the case of the Mesopotamian counterparts, Mayan step pyramids also have a temple at the top.

Step pyramid of Djoser. Credit: Jumpstory
Step pyramid of Djoser. Credit: Jumpstory

4. When speaking about the similarity with Egyptian pyramids and specifically the Step pyramid of Djoser, for example, El Castillo has internal secret structures similar to the Egyptian counterparts. In fact, El Castillo has not one but two smaller pyramidal temples underneath the external structure we all know and love.

5. As a matter of fact, the step pyramids of Teotihuacan also share this incredible similarity. In recent years, archaeologists discovered secret tunnels beneath the Pyramid of the Moon, for example. Then, again in Teotihuacan, archaeologists also discovered a tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.

6. The triptych door pattern is something seen in all ancient pyramid-building cultures. That is, they have three doors or windows at the very top with the middle one always being larger than the rest. This pattern cannot be a coincidence as it is present in Mesoamerica, Egyptian, and Indonesian pyramids, all built thousands of years ago. Even more curious, this element is present in Christianity, as well, for example, as well as modern architecture.

See the three windows at the top of the pyramid of Chichen Itza. Credit: Jumpstory
See the three windows at the top of the pyramid of Chichen Itza. Credit: Jumpstory

7. Step pyramids around the world have been built with precise alignments to stars, constellations, cardinal directions, etc. In this particular case, I don’t see this similarity as surprising as all ancient cultures were interested in astronomy and studied it at some point. The surprise remains how they achieved such precision.

8. Oriented towards the solstices. Visit the Egyptian pyramids at solstice and stand precisely in front of the Sphinx. What you will see is the sun setting in the very middle between the pyramids of Kharfa and Khufu. If you visit the pyramid of Chichen Itza at the same time of the year, for example, you will see how the shade splits the pyramid in two because its corners have been oriented towards the summer and winter solstices.

The pyramid at the Sukuh Temple, Indonesia. Credit: Flickr/Marina & Enrique
The pyramid at the Sukuh Temple, Indonesia. Credit: Flickr/Marina & Enrique

9. Similar step pyramids exist all the way in Indonesia, although their monuments were not as precisely built as their Mesoamerican counterparts, for example. Some good examples are the Sukuh Temple and Candi Ceto Temple. The resemblances with the Mayan design are obvious although the Indonesian sites are normally surrounded by monoliths, statues, and more.

10. We will round this list with a more general fact – pyramids were often built or used as tombs for rulers and high-ranking officials. This practice didn’t exist in all ancient cultures but it did in the Egyptian and Mayan civilizations, for once.


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Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.
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