If history books are to be believed, Egypt and pyramids could easily be interchangeable terms! With multiple sites in the country, the number of pyramids in Egypt is upward of a hundred.
Saqqara – Pyramid of Djoser
Saqqara is considered a major Egyptian pyramid site, primarily because of the Pyramid of Djoser. This terraced pyramid is probably one of the oldest stone structures in the world. Built as a tomb for Pharaoh Djoser, it is the first of the step-styled pyramids in Egypt.
Giza – Great Pyramid of Khufu and Pyramid of Khafre
A trio of pyramids outside of Cairo make up the famous image that is imprinted in minds across the world. The pyramids of Giza include the Great Pyramid, built for Pharaoh Khufu, which is the largest of the lot. Another one was for Pharaoh Khafre. This temple complex also includes the famous Sphinx statue – a half-man, half-lion figure.
The Nubian Pyramids
The red sandstone pyramids of a region once known as Nubia, now in Central Sudan, were built about 800 years after their more famous Egyptian cousins. Similar in workmanship, the Nubian Pyramids are much smaller in size and greater in number. They were also built as tombs for the kings and queens of the region. In fact, Sudan probably has the greatest number of pyramids in any country around the world. Surprise! Take a look at drone footage of some of the 220 pyramids that exist away from tourist glare in Sudan.
Chavin de Huantar
This flat topped pyramid is actually a huge complex developed over a few centuries by the Chavin, a pre-Inca culture, in Peru. Inside what is now mostly the ruin of massive temples are sculptures, carvings, passages and water channels to be used during rituals and ceremonies.
Like Egypt, Mexico also has multiple sites where history has been immortalised by gigantic stone structures. Here are some that stand out from the rest.
Teotihuacan – The Pyramid of the Sun
The third largest pyramid in the world, The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan is one of the largest structures in Mesoamerica. Made in a stepped style, the pyramid was originally painted over with lime plaster and brilliantly coloured murals. The structure had a temple on top at one point in time, and it is thought that it was used primarily for worship.
Puebla – The Great Pyramid of Cholula
This gigantic pyramid in the Mexican state of Puebla is actually the largest pyramid in the world. Though not as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza, it is a whole lot wider, technically making it larger. This pyramidal complex has gone through many avatars – starting off as Tlachihualtepetl or The Great Pyramid of Cholula built by the pre Columbian people, it was also used by the Aztecs as a temple for their gods. Finally, a church was built on top of it by the Spanish who mistook the overgrown grassy mound for a hill.
Ziggurat of Ur
The Ziggurat of Ur is a massive structure in the form of a terraced step pyramid. Built for the Sumerian King Ur Nammu, this grand tiered structure has three layers connected by stairs plus a temple at the top. Restored and reconstructed a few times over the centuries, today’s Ziggurat bears the scars of the Gulf War in the form of bullet holes.
Mayan Pyramids of Tikal
Tikal was a Mayan capital of great importance, which is why it is home to numerous monuments including five pyramid shaped temples. This ancient city remained abandoned and out of sight in a rain forest for about 800 years after which it was discovered by explorers. Now a part of Tikal National Park, Tikal has nine Twin Pyramid Complexes. Here is an aerial view of the Mayan capital and its archaeological treasures.
Pyramid of Cestius
This is a classic case of having a pyramid built for yourself simply because you can. This concrete pyramid covered with marble in classic Roman style is to be found right in the middle of Rome. It is presumed that after the Romans made Egypt a province, this Roman magistrate probably took a shine to the gigantic stone odes to pharaohs and queens and decided to get one custom made for himself. So at a place where you expect to be over awed by amphitheatres, columns and statues rises a 121-foot high pyramid complete with inscriptions and paintings on the inner walls. Talk about whims and fancies!
Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis
The Pyramid Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor
The mausoleum pyramid of China’s first emperor may not be a grand sight, but once you figure out what is inside the grassy, tree-covered hill it will force you to think again. Not fully excavated as yet, the tomb is supposed to represent the emperor’s universe in life – complete with his capital built as the inner and outer city. An entire garrison of soldiers, known now as the Terracotta Army, protects the emperor’s tomb that has still not been excavated. Here is a look at some of the treasures inside the mausoleum.
Pyramids of Guimar
Pretty Canary Islands has pyramids stashed away in Tenerife. There are six of these pyramids in the Ethnographic Park. These structures are a mystery in more ways than one – firstly, most people don’t know they exist; and secondly those who do, can’t seem to agree on their origin or their purpose. These terraced pyramids built from lava stone without the use of any mortar, have been called everything from astronomically perfect structures to stones piled up for agricultural purposes! Now that is some difference in opinion.
Akapana Platform Pyramid
The nearly 60 foot tall Akapana platform pyramid looks like a regular hill except for the portions of walls, columns and stones sticking out of it. Plundered through the centuries for its stones, it seems the pyramid was never finished when it was first constructed. Interestingly, stones and material for the original was scavenged out of other monuments from the city of Tiahuanaco, which was mysteriously abandoned before this behemoth could be completed. Figure this one out?
Here is a Google Earth video of pyramids around the world.