The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (2023)

The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (1)

The silhouette of the pyramids rising above the horizon is an image that evokes a sense of mystery, grandeur and immediacy of ancient history.

From the sun-drenched sands of Egypt to the lush jungles of Central America, the pyramids are timeless testaments to the engineering, religious beliefs and social structures of ancient civilizations.

But why do these different cultures, separated by vast oceans and time, come together in this peculiar architectural form?

What role did these monumental buildings play in their society?

What can these pyramids tell us about the cultures that built them and the interconnectedness (or lack thereof) of the ancient world?

What is a "pyramid"?

In the most basic architectural sense, a pyramid is a massive structure with a square or triangular base and sloping sides that meet at the top.

Although the typical image of a pyramid may be a true smooth-walled Egyptian pyramid, the structure is actually quite diverse.

Some pyramids, such as those in ancient Mesopotamia or Central America, are stepped, with a series of terraces rising to the top.

Others, such as the Nubian pyramids, have steeper slopes and smaller bases than the Egyptian pyramids.

Some pyramids have flat tops, while others end with a peak or even a small temple.

Regardless of these differences, the common thread that runs through all pyramid structures is the geometric shape that gives them their name, wide at the base and tapered at the top.

Apart from the physical form, pyramids of different cultures and periods have certain functional and symbolic features.

They were often erected as monumental buildings, they often served as a ruler's tomb, a temple or the center of ceremonies and celebrations.

This shared function reflects the common understanding of the pyramid by people who believe that the pyramid is a link between the world and the gods, and that its high height is considered a bridge between people and heaven.

Building pyramids often represented a significant investment in resources, reflecting the wealth and power of the individuals or societies that built them.

It should be noted that while we use the word "pyramid" broadly to include all of these structures, the cultures that created them often had their own unique names and concepts for these structures.

Mesopotamian pyramids

Before the creation of the Egyptian pyramids, the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia was already building its own monumental buildings, called pyramids.

These step pyramids were an integral part of the culture of the region, the center of their cities and the center of their religious life.

Pyramids appeared around the 3rd millennium BC in modern Iraq, the cradle of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, and parts of Iran, Syria and Turkey.

Unlike the stones used to build the Egyptian pyramids, the pyramids were built primarily of mud bricks due to the rich natural resources of the region.

This building material meant that fewer and fewer examples survived, as mud bricks were not as durable as stone.

The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (2)

Architecturally, the ziggurat is stepped, with each floor being smaller than the floor below, giving it a stepped appearance.

They have the shape of a rectangle, with large stairs or ramps leading to the top.

Sanctuaries or temples are often located on the highest levels, reinforcing their primary role as religious buildings.

andThese tall buildings were believed to be bridges between heaven and earth, and the gods descended into the mountaintop temples to commune with the priests and priestesses.

One of the best preserved pyramids is the Great Pyramid of Ur, built during the reign of Ur-Nammu in the 21st century BC.

The massive building, once over 30 meters high, was part of a temple complex dedicated to Nanna, the Moon god.

It remains a testimony of the architectural skills and religious beliefs of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization.

Egyptian pyramids

When the word "pyramid" is mentioned, the first image that comes to most people's mind is likely to be the magnificent pyramids of ancient Egypt.

Built between 2700 BC. Kr. and 1700 BC Kr. during the Old and Middle Kingdoms, these colossal structures are perhaps the most famous examples of pyramids in the world, symbolizing the grandeur, complexity and enduring fascination of ancient Egyptian civilization.

The evolution of Egyptian pyramid architecture can be seen as a journey towards architectural perfection.

The earliest form, Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara, was built around 2700 BC under the direction of the famous architect Imhotep and differed from the traditional Mastaba burials of the time.

Its design consists of six cascading terraces, marking the first colossal stone building in Egypt and the first pyramid.

The design of the pyramids has evolved over time. The Bent Pyramid, built during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu, was the first attempt at a pyramid with smooth sides, but the angle was changed halfway through to give it a curved appearance.

Eventually the builders achieved the true pyramid shape, a fluid, smooth pyramid, and the Red Pyramid was also built under Sneferu.

The pinnacle of this architectural evolution is undoubtedly the Great Pyramid of Giza, built for Pharaoh Khufu around 2580-2560 BC.

The largest of the three pyramids at Giza, the colossal structure was the tallest man-made structure in the world for thousands of years and remains one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The precision and skill of its construction continue to amaze modern engineers and archaeologists.

The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (3)

The main function of the Egyptian pyramids was to serve as tombs for the pharaohs and their concubines.

They were part of a larger complex that included mortuary temples, smaller subsidiary pyramids, and other structures needed for funerary ceremonies.

The pyramids symbolize the primordial mounds in Egyptian mythology, which were supposed to help the deceased pharaoh to ascend to heaven.

Building these pyramids was a difficult task that required a lot of resources, labor and organization.

Despite widespread misconceptions, scholars generally agree that the pyramids were built by hired laborers and skilled craftsmen, not slaves.

The technical ingenuity, social coordination and ambition required to build these structures reflect the sophistication of ancient Egyptian civilization.

American Step Pyramid

The Pyramids of the Americas stretch from northern North America to the southern tip of South America, displaying a remarkable diversity of form, function, and cultural origin.

Built by civilizations such as the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas, as well as the ancient mound builders of North America, these structures were an integral part of some of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies.

In Central America, civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs built impressive step pyramids that served as religious and civic centers.

The Maya, whose civilization spanned present-day Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, built pyramids that were often part of larger urban complexes.

Famous examples include the Pyramid of the Magi at Uxmal and the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque, which was both a temple and a mausoleum for the ruler Pacal the Great.

The Aztec civilization, based in the Valley of Mexico, also built impressive pyramids, such as the Great Temple in the capital city of Tenochtitlan.

The pyramid was the center of Aztec religious life, dedicated to the gods Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli.

It is a two-story columned pyramid, each of which leads to a temple dedicated to one of the two gods.

North America also has a tradition of pyramid-like structures, especially the earthen forms built by the Mississippian culture.

The most famous of these is Monk's Mound in present-day Cahokia, Illinois. Formed from layers of earth, this massive structure is the largest pre-Columbian mound in the Americas and is a testament to the complexity and sophistication of Mississippian culture.

The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (4)

Further south, in the Andes region of South America, the Moche and Inca civilizations built their own pyramid-like structures.

The Moche people, who lived on the northern coast of modern Peru, built adobe pyramids, the most famous of which is the Pyramid of the Sun.

Known for their impressive stonework, the Incas built structures that, while not strictly pyramidal, followed similar geometric and architectural principles.

Although geographically and culturally distant from the pyramid-building cultures of the Old World, American civilizations independently developed their own pyramid-building traditions.

However, unlike the main purpose of the Egyptian pyramids, American pyramids generally served a variety of functions, including serving as temples, palaces, and centers of civic life.

Even Nubia, Rome, China...

Although the pyramids of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Americas are most famous, these magnificent structures can be found in other parts of the world, showing the remarkable range of pyramid-building culture.

In ancient Nubia, now modern Sudan, civilizations contemporary to ancient Egypt built pyramids in their own style.

Built between 2600 BC. Kr. and 300 AD, the Nubian pyramids were generally smaller and steeper than the Egyptian pyramids.

Primarily built as tombs for the rulers of the kingdoms of Kush and Meroe, these pyramids are a unique blend of Egyptian and indigenous Nubian architectural styles.

Although less famous than the Egyptian pyramids, more than 200 Nubian pyramids still exist today, testifying to a rich but often overlooked civilization.

Ancient Greece and Rome, known for their architectural achievements, also engaged in the construction of pyramids, although on a much smaller scale.

Built between 18 and 12 BC, the Pyramid of Cestius in Rome is an unusual structure with a concrete core surrounded by white marble.

The pyramid was the mausoleum of the magistrate Gaius Cestius and reflects the influence of Egyptian architecture on the Roman world after the Roman conquest of Egypt.

In ancient China there were structures commonly referred to as "pyramids", although they differed greatly from the pyramidal forms found in Egypt or Central America.

From the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) to the Tang Dynasty (618 AD to 907 AD), the tombs of emperors were often built as huge mounds.

The most famous of them is the Mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, famous for its terracotta warriors.

While these structures lack the geometric precision of true pyramids, their monumental size and use as royal tombs puts them in line with the wider global tradition of pyramid building.

The construction of pyramids in these different cultures, often with limited contact between them, raises fascinating questions about the universality of certain architectural forms and human concepts of divinity and the afterlife.

mysterious similarities and differences

Architecturally speaking, although all of these structures fall under the broad definition of a pyramid due to their geometry, their specific forms vary widely.

The real Egyptian pyramids have smooth, sloping sides, unlike the Mesopotamian step pyramids or the Mayan and Aztec pyramids.

The Nubian pyramids are steeper and smaller than the Egyptian pyramids, while the ancient Chinese mounds lack the exact geometry of most other pyramids.

Functionally, most pyramids served religious or spiritual purposes, often as the tomb of a ruler or temple of a god. However, there are significant differences between cultures.

The Egyptian pyramids are almost entirely tombs, and their interior is a labyrinth of chambers and passages intended for the pharaoh's journey to the afterlife. In contrast, Mesoamerican pyramids often had multiple functions, such as temples, palaces, and sometimes tombs.

The pyramids in Mesopotamia served primarily as temples, and their mountain tops were considered the abodes of the gods.

The mysterious reason why pyramids appeared in so many ancient cultures around the world (5)

Despite these differences, there are interesting similarities in the symbolism of the pyramids.

In many cultures, pyramids are considered a link between the earthly and divine worlds, and their high heights act as bridges or stairs to heaven.

They also symbolized the power and prestige of those who trusted them, whether pharaohs, kings or city-states.

Construction techniques vary widely, influenced by available resources, technological progress, and social organization.

The Egyptians used massive manpower and precise planning to move and place huge blocks of stone, while the Mesopotamians used mud bricks and the Mesoamericans used local stone and mortar.

Although they differ in materials and methods, both required a great deal of social coordination and labor, reflecting the advanced social structures of these civilizations.

While it is easy to make generalizations or look for universal human characteristics, we must also respect and appreciate the unique cultural, religious, and social institutions that make up these extraordinary structures.

Why do these types of buildings appear in so many places?

The prevalence of pyramidal structures in various ancient cultures around the world is a topic of constant fascination and debate among historians, archaeologists and enthusiasts.

Although there is no consensus as to why this particular form of architecture was so common in ancient civilizations, several theories have been proposed.

One theory is the structural stability of the pyramid shape. The wide bottom and narrow top ensure a stable structure that will stand the test of time. This is evidenced by the fact that many ancient pyramids are still standing thousands of years after they were built, even after the collapse of other types of structures.

By building the pyramids, these societies were able to ensure the longevity of their monumental structures, reflecting their religious beliefs, social values ​​and the legacy of their rulers for future generations.

Another theory refers to the symbolism of the pyramid shape. Many ancient cultures associated the shape of the pyramid with spiritual or celestial concepts. In Egypt, the pyramids represent the primordial mounds on which life arose.

In Central America, the pyramids are seen as man-made mountains that connect the worlds of earth and gods. Therefore, the pyramid shape may have been chosen for its strong symbolic resonance, providing a physical representation of the cosmology of those cultures.

Another theory is that the pyramid structure is a reflection of social complexity and technological power. The construction of such a monumental building required advanced architectural knowledge, a large and organized workforce and the ability to mobilize the necessary funds.

In this way, the pyramids can serve as proof of the strength and maturity of the ruling class or society as a whole.

Also noteworthy is the theory of independent invention, which suggests that pyramidal forms arose independently in different cultures due to similar circumstances, needs, or influences.

Although some have raised the idea of ​​transoceanic contact between these cultures, there is currently no universally accepted archaeological evidence to support this claim.

These theories are not mutually exclusive, and it is likely that a combination of these factors contributed to the prevalence of pyramidal structures in cultures.

Evidence of alien contact?

The theory that extraterrestrials visited Earth in ancient times and contributed to the construction of monuments such as the pyramids is a popular topic in pseudoscience and popular culture.

Proponents of these "ancient astronaut" theories often point to the extraordinary architectural achievements of ancient civilizations and claim that they must have possessed knowledge or technology beyond the capabilities of those societies.

However, there is no scientifically accepted evidence to support these theories. Archaeologists, historians and scientists generally agree that the pyramids and other monuments of the ancient world were built by human societies using the tools, technology and knowledge available at the time.

While many aspects of these structures are truly impressive, and we do not fully understand all of the technology used to build them, this does not necessarily mean that aliens were involved.

In fact, many of the so-called "mysteries" surrounding the construction of the pyramids are under constant study, and scientists have made great strides in understanding how these remarkable structures were built using ancient technology.

Moreover, attributing these structures to extraterrestrials could inadvertently undermine the achievements of ancient human societies.

These civilizations showed incredible ingenuity, organization and persistence in their architectural projects. These are human stories of innovation, ambition and cultural expression that deserve acknowledgment and recognition.

While the search for extraterrestrial life is a legitimate and exciting area of ​​scientific inquiry, it is important that such speculation be based on rigorous evidence.

Currently, the archaeological or historical record does not support the idea that aliens were involved in the construction of the pyramids or other ancient structures.

Learn more about ancient history


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carmelo Roob

Last Updated: 26/06/2023

Views: 5827

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carmelo Roob

Birthday: 1995-01-09

Address: Apt. 915 481 Sipes Cliff, New Gonzalobury, CO 80176

Phone: +6773780339780

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Gaming, Jogging, Rugby, Video gaming, Handball, Ice skating, Web surfing

Introduction: My name is Carmelo Roob, I am a modern, handsome, delightful, comfortable, attractive, vast, good person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.