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Modern and ancient pyramids come in many forms and sizes. To determine which is the largest pyramid one could compare their heights for example. At a height of 260 meters (853 feet), the Transamerica Pyramid would certainly be a serious candidate.

Many big pyramids however come with a very large base but are not very tall. A better measure of size therefore is probably the volume of a pyramid. The volume of a pyramid can be calculated by the following formula: Length_of_base * Width_of_base * Height * 1/3. This is 54 x 54 x 260 x 1/3 = 252,720 m³ for the Transamerica Pyramid, which isn’t even close enough to be included in our list of biggest pyramids.

So with this formula it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the largest pyramids in the world. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. Many pyramids are not true smooth sided pyramids but stepped pyramids. Another problem is that some of the largest pyramids on earth are still not completely excavated.

8La Danta, El Mirador (0,9 million m³)
photo/Julie Hillebrant

El Mirador was a major Mayan city that flourished from about the 6th century BC, reaching a peak population of perhaps more than 8,000 people between the 3rd BC and the 1st century AD. After a hiatus of a few centuries further constructions were undertaken until the city was abandonment at the end of the 9th century. The ruins were rediscovered in 1926 but received little attention due to its remote location deep in the jungle of northern Guatemala. Today the site remains largely covered by tropical jungle and the two largest structures at El Mirador, the “El Tigre” complex and the “La Danta” complex, give the impression of two large hills.

The La Danta complex consists of a number of platforms. The lowest platform measures 310 by 590 meters (1017 by 1936 ft), is 7 meters (23 ft) high and supports a series of buildings. The next platform is about 190 by 240 meters (623 by 787 ft) and rises another 7 meters. Above that is another platform around 21 meters high (69 feet), which is topped off by three pyramids, the tallest of which is 21 meters high. At 70 meters (230 feet) the Danta Complex is somewhat higher than El Tigre (about 55 meters or 180 feet high) although La Danta incorporates a low natural hill.

According to some source the La Danta complex has a total volume of 2,800,000 cubic meters which would make it one of the largest structures in the word. The question is however, how accurate this calculation is and if the entire complex can be considered one single pyramid. One could argue that a part of the first platform should be excluded as it supports several buildings.

7Pyramid of the Sun (1,2 million m³)
Photo by Unitopia

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in Teotihuacán and one of the largest Pyramids in Mesoamerica. The name comes from the Aztecs, who visited the city of Teotihuacán centuries after it was abandoned. The pyramid was constructed in two phases. The first construction stage, around 100 AD brought the pyramid to nearly the size it is today. The second round of construction resulted in its completed size of 225 meters (733 feet) across and 75 meters (246 feet) high.

6Luxor Hotel (1,228 million m³)
flickr/Daniel Coomber

The Luxor Pyramid was among the first of a decade-long wave of new megaresorts to emerge on the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. Opened in 1993 after only eighteen months of construction, the Luxor debuted with 2,526 guest rooms, a gigantic casino area, a showroom, restaurants, and entertainment venues on its 2nd floor. At a base length of 183 meters (600 ft) and a height of 110 meters (350 ft) it is considerably smaller than its famous model, the Great Pyramid at Giza.

5Bent Pyramid (1,237 million m³)

The Bent Pyramid located at Dahshur was the second pyramid built by pharaoh Sneferu. Mysteriously, the Egyptian pyramid rises from the desert at an angle of 55 degrees and then suddenly changes to a more gradual angle of 43 degrees. One theory holds that due to the steepness of the original angle the weight to be added above the inner chambers and passageways became too large, forcing the builders to adopt a shallower angle. The base of the pyramid is 188.6 meters (619 ft) and the height 101.1 meters (332 ft).

4Red Pyramid (1,69 million m³)
flickr/acaaron816

Built by Pharaoh Sneferu, the Red Pyramid is the world’s first successful attempt at constructing a true pyramid. The pyramid measures 220 by 220 meters (722 ft) and is 104 meters (341 ft) high. It was the largest pyramid in Egypt until the construction of the Giza pyramids. What really makes the Red Pyramid special today is the lack of crowds that plagues the Giza Plateau and the comparatively unregulated interior access.

3Great Pyramid of Cholula (1,8 million m³)
flickr/ogal

The Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico appears to be a natural hill topped by a Catholic church. This is the “Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios” which was built by the Spanish in 1594 on the site of a pre-Hispanic temple. According to the Guinness Book of Records, this temple is in fact the largest pyramid ever constructed anywhere in the world, with a total volume estimated at over 4.45 million m³. This is based on a size off 450 by 450 meter (1476×1476 ft) and a height of 66 m (217 ft).

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