When thinking about pyramids, most people’s minds immediately go to Egypt.
After all, Egyptian pyramids were likely the first ones you ever learned about in school. The Great Pyramid at Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, is arguably the most famous pyramid in the world. It’s the only pyramid listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is also now the only surviving structure of those Seven Wonders, too.
However, there are actually ancient pyramid structures all over the globe, from many different cultures and civilizations throughout history. And for many of them, there doesn’t seem to be any connection to one another.
From the limestone stepped pyramids built by the Mayans to a Roman pyramid built from white marble and brick, there are many spectacular pyramid structures that have survived the test of time.
The Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt
The Pyramid of Khufu, famously known as the Great Pyramid, is the largest pyramid in Giza. It is one of the three major pyramids at the site, along with the infamous Great Sphinx statue and several smaller pyramids arranged as satellites. The Great Pyramid was built with an estimated 2,300,000 stone blocks, and the larger ones in the lower layers weigh anywhere from 6.5 to 10 tons each. Those stone blocks were then covered with smooth white limestone casing, though most of it is gone these days. You can see the pyramids wonderfully from a few different viewpoints, and visitors are also allowed to go inside.
The Step Pyramid of Djoser in Egypt
There are hundreds of pyramids still standing in Egypt, but the Pyramid of Djoser is one you can’t miss. This pyramid, consisting of six tiers and a maze of underground tunnels, was the first colossal stone pyramid that the Egyptians ever built. Before this, pharaohs’ tombs were flat-topped mounds.
It predates the Pyramid of Khufu by more than a century. It was constructed at Saqqara some 4,700 years ago for the Pharaoh by Imhotep, his chancellor and architect who was later deified. Saqqara is massive, and aside from this one, is home to several other major pyramids sprawled over six miles.
Pyramid of Cestius in Rome, Italy
Yes, there is even an ancient pyramid in Europe! This pyramid was built during the Roman Empire’s rule as a tomb for the wealthy Roman magistrate Gaius Cestius. The popularity of all things Egyptian swept through the Empire after Egypt was incorporated, so I suppose Cestius just wanted a pyramid of his own!
The structure was built of brick and cement, and then covered in white marble. The interior was originally decorated with frescoes, but they are now mostly gone. Sometime later, between 271 and 275, the pyramid was built into the fortifications of the Aurelian walls, which is what probably helped it survive the test of time.
Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico
Teotihuacan as a whole is incredibly well-preserved, and the pre-Columbian city is located just 30 miles outside of Mexico City. Here, you’ll find intricate details and massive step pyramids. But the most impressive of them all is the Pyramid of the Sun.
Believed to be constructed around 200 CE, the Pyramid of the Sun is the largest structure in Teotihuacan, and one of the largest in all of Mesoamerica. It sits along the Avenue of the Dead, situated in the heart of the large complex between the smaller Pyramid of the moon and the Ciudadela (a sunken plaza).
Pyramid of the Niches in Veracruz, Mexico
Sitting in present-day southern Mexico, El Tajin was one of the largest and most important cities of the time and the capital city of the Totonac state. Numerous temples, pyramids, palaces, and ballcourts were built here, but the best-known monument here is the Pyramid of the Niches. It’s an impressive six-stepped pyramid built with the same unique architecture used throughout El Tajin. The architecture is unlike anything else in Mesoamerica, characterized by elaborate carved reliefs, niches, cornices, plaster ceilings, and more.
Tikal in Guatemala
Guatemala is home to one of the most impressive and most famous Mayan sites. Known as Tikal, it was a major ceremonial site for the Maya, with structures built as early as 300 BCE. There are an impressive amount of well-preserved monuments, temples, palaces, and other structures here – including several impressive limestone step pyramids. The largest pyramid here stands at 213 feet.
Nubian Pyramids in Sudan
Now part of modern-day Sudan, Nubia was once home to the Kingdom of Kush. It was here that the Nubian pyramids were built as tombs for royalty and wealthy citizens. Although they were heavily influenced by the Egyptians, these pyramids are notably smaller and more narrow in shape. There are more than 200 pyramids across a few different sites in the region, but the most extensive pyramid site is at the ancient city of Meroe.