There are many similarities (and differences) between Ancient Egyptian Pyramids, Mesopotamian ziggurats, and the pyramids of Pre-Columbian South America. All of them had major significance for their peoples cultures and religious beliefs, as well as having historic significance today. The greatest parallel between all of these ancient skyscrapers is that they were made for the upper echelons of these now defunct civilizations.
The Egyptians built the most of these cultures. Over 90 royal pyramids were produced between roughly 2500 BC – 1500 BC. A daunting task considering that most of these pyramids were built nowhere near the supplies needed to make them. Giant stones were used, over a million for each pyramid and most stones weighed about 2 tons. The pyramids were basically gigantic tombs for kings and queens. They were seen as gateways between earth and the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that the dead royalties’ spirit could leave the body and travel through the sky with the sun each day. When the sun set in the west, the royal spirits settled into their pyramid tombs to renew themselves. The mummified body would be placed in these tombs surrounded by important earthly possessions and hieroglyphs telling their stories. Surrounding the pyramids were mortuary temples where mummification took place and where priest preformed rituals. The pyramids’ form evolved over the years when they were built, from a step design to the now synonymous sleek triangle. The largest and most famous pyramid is that of King Khufu, in Giza, which is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and the only one left.
Paralleling the pyramids in Egypt were the ziggurats of Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia (meaning between two rivers, the Tigress and Euphrates) began making these structures around roughly 2000 BC. They were made of bricks that they produced on the building’s work site. There were sun-dried bricks to make up the solid inside of the ziggurat, and there were kiln fired bricks that made up the structures facade. These bricks were much smaller than the stones used in Egypt and also did not have to be brought from far away. Some of the ziggurats were built on top of older ones. Like Egyptian pyramids, the ziggurat was believed to be a kind of gateway between heaven and earth, but unlike the pyramids, the ziggurats where not tombs for kings. Rather they were believed to be the earthly homes of gods. Egyptians built their massive structures outside of major populated areas. But the ziggurats were in prominent areas. Cities had their own patron god or goddess (some places even had two ziggurats, one for a god of both sexes) and priests were the only ones allowed into these temples. They had the honor of catering to the needs of the gods and were powerful figures in their respective communities. Mesopotamians also built the Tower of Babel, which was supposed to have been built as bridge from earth to heaven. It was most likely located in Neo-Babylonia (home of the Hanging Gardens) and was also one of the Seven Wonders of the World, although it no longer exists. It had been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times over, supposedly measuring in at 300 feet high and 300 square feet at it’s base when it was at it’s largest size. The size, shape, and ideas behind the ziggurats and the tower have survived in the form of modern day minarets. They are the natural evolution of these ancient structures. They are tall and graceful and are associated with mosques and the Islamic religion. They, like ziggurats were, are believed to be a gateway between heaven and earth.
Like the ziggurats and minarets, South American Pre-Columbian (before 1492/ white people) pyramids were holy places. The pyramids were used by many South American societies including the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and Olmecs, among others, and were all made during the first few centuries after Christ. These pyramids were temples used for human sacrifices to the gods, and the scenes of many mass ceremonies. At the top of the pyramid would sit the teocalli, which was the home of the god. People believed that offering the gods human blood and hearts would guarantee the sustainment of their societies and would ultimately bring prosperity. Like the ziggurats, the pyramids were located in major populated areas, and were usually the center of their communities. Another parallel between these structures were that they were both solid inside. More like holy man made hills, rather than functioning habitats. These South American pyramids were also built using supplies and stones on site. The inside was a large pile of rubble and then the outside was built up around it. Like their Egyptian counter parts, people of high importance were buried in these pyramids.
The greatest question I’ve come to have, involving these glorious ancient structures, is what’s the connection between the societies of the Middle East and those of South America? What would inspire them to build these ominous creations paralleling each other thousands of miles and years away? Is there something inert in man to want to reach the heavens? To be close to your god? Is it Aliens?
MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia
Encyclopedia Britannica Online
Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia
Ancient Egypt Magazine Online
Artdaily.org, Online Magazine