Although the ancient Egyptian pyramids are by far the most famous of all pyramids on Earth, Egypt is not home to the largest pyramids on Earth, nor is it where the oldest pyramids were built.
Despite the fact that mainstream scholars argue that the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara is the oldest in Egypt, hundreds of years before it, people in the American Continent were already building pyramid structures.
The oldest pyramids can be traced back to Brazil, as well as Caral in present-day Peru.
Thousands of pyramids are scattered across the world. These majestic structures have been built for thousands of years by different civilizations across the world.
There are pyramids in Asia, Africa, America, and even Europe.
Built ranging in different sizes, some of the pyramids rise to a height of more than 130 meters, while others are only a few meters high.
Pyramids were built for different reasons.
In Egypt, for example, experts argue that the kings commissioned massive pyramids to be built in order to serve as their eternal resting places, safeguarding their mummified remains in their journey in the afterlife.
This is just one of the many theories about the Egyptian pyramids.
Since there are no written records mentioning the construction date of the pyramids, their exact purpose, and the methods by which these structures were built, we can only rely on academic guesswork and a plethora of theories to try and understand the meaning of these massive structures.
Although the pyramids of Egypt are majestic, and millions of people travel each year to see the structure up close, there are pyramids even more massive than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
According to measurements, the Great Pyramid of Giza has a total weight of 6.5 million tons. It was supposedly built using more than 2.3 million blocks of stone, and its total volume is calculated at 2,583,283 cubic meters (91,227,778 cu ft).
While this is massive, there are even bigger pyramids around the world.
One such pyramid regarded the largest on Earth is located halfway around the world in Central America.
In the town of Cholula in present-day Mexico, lies a treasure which is hidden beneath a mountain.
Called Tlachihualtepetl in native Nahuatl, its name translates to “made-by-hand-mountain. However, it is more famously known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula, and it’s a structure like no other on Earth.
The largest in terms of volume
This pyramid is considered the largest archaeological site of a pyramid (temple) in the New World, as well as the largest pyramid known to exist anywhere on the surface of the planet today.
In its final form, this behemoth structure measured 450 by 450 meters (1,480 by 1,480 ft).
Unlike the Pyramids in Egypt, which were thought to have been the tombs of mighty Pharaohs, the Great Pyramid of Cholula was actually an ancient temple, believed to have been dedicated to the Flying Serpent God Quetzalcoatl.
To the ancient Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was the ancient god of wind, air, and learning.
The massive pyramid, with an estimated volume of more than 4.45 million cubic meters, was a significant religious and mythical center in prehispanic times.
The pyramid is thought to have been built gradually in various phases over a period of a thousand years before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores. The ancient inhabitants of Cholula–which in Nahuatl means “place of refugee”–saw people gradually built the bulk of the structure until it became the largest pyramid in terms of volume.
Although its exact construction date remains a mystery, and we don’t know how the pyramid was built, academics theorize that the pyramid-complex was built in a total of four stages, the first of which began around the 3rd century BC.
With a total height of 66 meters (217 ft), according to the Guinness Book of Records, the Great Pyramid of Cholula with its total volume of 4.45 million cubic meters is nearly twice as larger as the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, which is estimated to around 2.5 million cubic meters.
Despite the fact that the Great Pyramid of Cholula is much more massive in terms of volume, the Great Pyramid of Giza is much taller, standing at around 138.8 meters (455 ft).
Home to the largest pyramid on Earth, the town of Cholula is believed to have been the second-largest population prior to the Spanish arrival with an estimated 100,000 people living at the site.
Interestingly, researchers believe that the site where the Great Pyramid of Cholula once stands was once called Acholollan (in Nahuatl), which means “place of flight.”
The core of the Great Pyramid of Cholula is interesting.
Although today the pyramid is buried beneath a mounting atop which the Spanish built a church, archeological surveys of the site have revealed that the Great Pyramid of Cholula is made out of six superimposed structures.
Today, the pyramid looks like a natural hill surmounted by the church, which is called Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies).
Building the Great Pyramid of Cholula
Each of the steps of the pyramid is thought to have been built by the ethnic group that dominated the city.
A similar construction technique was used by the ancient Egyptians when the first pyramid of Egypt was built.
However, despite the fact that there are believed to be six stepped structures, only three of these have been studied in detail by experts.
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is part of the greater archeological site of Cholula, estimated at around 154 hectares.
The massive pyramid’s base covers a total area of 160,000 square meters, which means it is three times as massive as the 53,056.5 square meter base of Pharaoh Khufu’s Great Pyramid at Giza.
The pyramid is so massive that the ancient Aztecs believed the structure was built by Xelhua, one of the seven mighty giants of Aztec Mythology.
The Giant Xelhua is said to have escaped the great flood by climbing Mount Tlaloc in the earthly paradise, and after waiting out the flood, he decided to erect the Great Pyramid.
Archaeological work at the site, and specifically at the pyramid, has been very limited despite its importance.
Nonetheless, archeological studies have discovered more than 8 kilometers of tunnels located beneath the superstructure.
Inside the tunnels, experts have come across different artifacts, among which are offerings, human remains, as well as pottery fragments.
Despite the extensive tunnels beneath the pyramid, no more than 800 meters of the passages beneath the pyramid are open to the public.
Here are a few rare images of the pyramid’s inside: