18 Bewildering Aerial Photographs of Ancient Pyramids You Should See

What a stunning collection.

There’s nothing better than seeing the work of ancient mankind from a unique perspective. And what better way to appreciate some of the most amazing ancient structures on the surface of Earth, than to submerge yourself in a stunning collection of aerial images of the pyramids.

The most popular pyramids are without a doubt the enigmatic structures standing today at the Giza plateau.

Thought to have been constructed more than 4,500 years ago according to mainstream experts, the pyramids of Egypt are one of the most iconic monuments on the surface of the planet.

Although the most popular pyramids are those at Giza–the pyramid of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure–, Egypt has many other pyramids scatter4ed across its territory.

Aerial view of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, as well as many other ancient structures built throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Shutterstock.
Aerial view of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, as well as many other ancient structures built throughout the history of Ancient Egypt. Shutterstock.

The largest pyramid ever built in Egypt is the Great Pyramid of Giza. Although it is the largest, it isn’t the oldest of Egypt.

In fact,m hundreds of years before the Great Pyramid was planned, designed and built by royal architect Hemiunu, a revolutionary, the history-changing monument was erected not far from Giza, to the south.

An aerial image of the Saqqara necropolis and the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Shutterstock.
An aerial image of the Saqqara necropolis and the Step Pyramid of Djoser. Shutterstock.

At the Royal Necropolis of Saqqara, thrid-dynasty king Djoser instructed his royal vizier and architect Imhotep to build a unique monument, one that would stand the test of time.

Imhotep was then a young and talented architect who didn’t come from royalty but was nonetheless respected and admired by Djoser.

The third dynasty king had recognized Imhotep’s talent and vision, the reason why the Pharaoh gave the young man free hands in designing and building the monument at Saqqara.

Quickbird image of the Saqqara pyramids. Courtesy of Robert Corrie.
Quickbird image of the Saqqara pyramids. Courtesy of Robert Corrie.

Imhotep did not disappoint.

He set out to build a structure that forever changed the history of ancient Egyptian architecture. The young architect would eventually build, in around 19 years, a monument unlike any other.

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is widely regarded by reachers as not only the first pyramid in the history of Egypt but as the earliest colossal stone building as well as the earliest large-scale cut stone construction in the history of ancient Egypt.

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An image of the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx from space. Image Credit: Reddit / International Space Station.
An image of the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx from space. Image Credit: Reddit / International Space Station.

A case can be made that the Step Pyramid is one fo the earliest-large-scale cut-stone projects in the history of civilization, although the South American pyramids at Caral are contemporary.

Although the Step Pyramid is believed to be the oldest in Egypt, it is not nearly as old as the oldest pyramids on Earth, located not far from Caral in present-day Brazil.

The Pyramids at Giza, circled in white. Shutterstock.
The Pyramids at Giza circled in white. Shutterstock.

These structures are less complex in terms of design and construction material compared to Djoser’s Step Pyramid but are nonetheless evidence that ancient civilizations erected pyramids as far back as 5,000 years ago.

A birdlike image of the Pyramids at Giza and the Great Sphinx.

Pharaohs that ruled over Egypt after Djoser were impressed by what he had achieved, and they tried replicating what their ancestor had completed.

Nonetheless, as an icon, the Step Pyramid did not endure long. In fact, a few generations of kings came and went until Egypt saw the birth of another pyramid. This wasn’t until the fourth Dynasty rule of King Sneferu, who would become Egypt’s most proliferate pyramid builder.

A view of the Pyramids at Dahshur from space. Image credit: Thomas Pesquet, ESA.
A view of the Pyramids at Dahshur from space. Image credit: Thomas Pesquet, ESA.

Sneferu followed Djsoer’s footsteps and managed to complete not one, but three pyramids.

His first pyramid was the structure now in ruins at Meidum. This pyramid is regarded as yet another proto-pyramid and a strcutre on which Sneferu’s pyramid builders most likely experimented between building a step pyramid and a smooth-sided one.

The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, Egypt. Credit: Soichi Noguchi/NASA/JAXA
The Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid in Dahshur, Egypt. Credit: Soichi Noguchi/NASA/JAXA

Egyptologists believe that the pyramid at Meidum was first built as a Step Pyramid, and was then transformed (or attempted to be transformed) into a smooth-sided one.

The second pyramid built in Egypt is believed to have been the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. The Red Pyramid of King Sneferu became Egypt’s first successful smooth-sided pyramid, and the largest strcutre Egypt had ever seen in history.

The Pyramids at Dahshur as seen from space. Image Credit: NASA.
The Pyramids at Dahshur as seen from space. Image Credit: NASA.

However, this would change when Sneferu’s son became king. Early in his reign, Egyptologists tell us that Khufu commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza. This massive monument is said to have been completed in no more than 20 years.

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During this time, the builders are thought to have transported and placed into position more than 5.5 million tonnes of limestone, 8,000 tonnes of granite (imported from Aswan), and 500,000 tonnes of mortar.

Amazing Images showing the Pyramids at Giza (left) and the pyramids at Dahshur (Right). Image Credit: ESA / NASA.
Amazing Images showing the Pyramids at Giza (left) and the pyramids at Dahshur (Right). Image Credit: ESA / NASA.

The resulting strcutre was a pyramid with a total volume of 2,300,000 cubic meters (81,000,000 cu ft). Its weight has been estimated at around 6.5 million tons, and the precision and care by which the pyramid was built is out of this world.

Satellite view of the Pyramids at Giza and Cairo. Image Credit: NASA / Earth Observatory.
Satellite view of the Pyramids at Giza and Cairo. Image Credit: NASA / Earth Observatory.

The accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of no more than 58 millimeters in length

Upon completion, the Great Pyramid of Giza remained the tallest man-made structure on the surface of the planet for a period of more than 3,800 years.

Survey of the Great Pyramid and surrounding monuments revealed further bewildering facts. Petrie (1881) and Lehner (1997) discovered that the base of the pyramid is horizontal and flat to withing ±15 mm (0.6 in).

The Pyramids sides are closely aligned to the cardinal compass points, and the finished base was squared to a mean corner error of only 12 seconds of arc, it has been found.

Why such incredible precision and size remains a profound mystery.

An image of the Pyramids at Giza taken by the ESA’s Proba-1 minisatellite. Image Credit: ESA.
An image of the Pyramids at Giza taken by the ESA’s Proba-1 minisatellite. Image Credit: ESA.

But even though the Great Pyramid is regarded as a truly gigantic period, its not even close to the largest pyramid on Earth.

Halfway around the globe, in present-day Mexico, is where the largest pyramid on the surface of the planet stands.

The Colonial church built atop the Great Pyramid of Cholula near Puebla, Mexico. Shutterstock.
The Colonial church built atop the Great Pyramid of Cholula near Puebla, Mexico. Shutterstock.

Hidden beneath a hill atop which a colonial church was built during the Spanish Conquest, the Great Pyramid of Cholula is not only the largest pyramid on the surface of the planet but also the largest monument ever constructed anywhere in the world.

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Its calculated total volume is estimated at over 4.45 million cubic meters, meaning its nearly twice as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Curiously, not far from the Great Pyramid of Cholula, lie the remnants of another set of pyramids.

Aerial view of the two main pyramids at Teotihuacan. Shutterstock.
Aerial view of the two main pyramids at Teotihuacan. Shutterstock.

The ancient city of Teotihuacan is home to some of the largest most ancient pyramids ever built in Mesoamerica.

The exact construction date of Teotihuacan’s pyramids remains shrouded in mystery since the culture that built them did not leave behind any clues that could help us understand why, when, and how the three pyramid-temples of Teotihuacan were constructed.

The ancient city of Teotihuacan and its pyramids. Shutterstock.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan and its pyramids. Shutterstock.

We do know they are massive, they are ancient and that the Aztec legends say giants helped build them. Although this may not be the case, similar legends at Cholula say that the Great Pyramid was constructed after a giant called Xelhua escaped the great flood.

To appreciate the wonderous pyramids at Teotihuacan, we need not involve giants and supernatural beings, but the pyramid are certainly one of the most significant architectural achievements in the history of American architecture.

The monuments of Teotihuacan are regarded as the most architecturally significant Mesoipamerica Pyramids built in pre-Colombian Americas.

Beautiful aerial view of the Pyramids of Teotihuacan Mexico with balloons in the sunset. Shutterstock.
Beautiful aerial view of Teotihuacan Mexico with balloons in the sunset. Shutterstock.

The city in which the pyramids were built was equally stunning. Teotihuacan’s name can be translated to either as “birthplace of the gods”, or “the place where gods were born”. Its original name remains shrouded in mystery.

At its peak, the city of Teotihuacan is thought to have been home to more than 150,000 people, making it one of the largest ancient cities in the world.

Aerial view (over head view) of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Shutterstock.
Aerial view (overhead view) of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Shutterstock.

The three pyramids at Teotihuacan are the Pyramid of the Sun, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the pyramid–temple–of the feathered serpent Quetzalcoatl, a deity known to the ancient Maya civilization as the feathered serpent Kukulkan.

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