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The Great Pyramid of Cholula: Little known but recognized as largest pyramid in the world by volume

Great Pyramid of Cholula

Great Pyramid of Cholula is located in Mesoamerica. This pyramid is known as one of the largest pyramids in the world.


The Great Pyramid of Cholula is located just outside Puebla, the fourth largest city in modern day Mexico. This pyramid was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, one of the most important deities of the Mesoamerican pantheon and during pre-Colombian times, Cholula was a large city and the religious center of highland Mexico.

It has also been speculated that the Great Pyramid of Cholula was built to appease a nearby volcanic mountain called Popocatépetl. This is due to the fact that the contours of that volcanic mountain are reflected in the shape of the Great Pyramid, as well as the pyramid’s other name, Tlachihualtepetl, which means ‘Man-made Hill.’

The construction of the temple began during the 2nd century BC, and went through several stages before achieving its final form. Over the centuries, the Great Pyramid of Cholula ‘grew’ as builders made additions to the structure.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula Falls into Disarray

Around 600 AD, Cholula was conquered by the Olmec-Xicallancas, who also made additions to the city’s pyramid. However, around 1100 AD, the city fell into the hands of the Toltec-Chichimecas. It is said that when the Toltec-Chichimecas occupied Cholula, the Great Pyramid was already largely submerged under the earth, and vegetation and trees were growing all over it.

Nevertheless, Cholula was eventually conquered by the Aztecs, and then fell to the Spanish. In 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Cholula, the second largest city in Mexico at that point of time.

When the Spanish arrived, they did not know that this was a man-made structure but believed that it was just a natural hill.

Rediscovery of the Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid of Cholula was only rediscovered in the early 20th century. In 1910, authorities began the construction of a mental asylum at the base of the Great Pyramid. It was only then that the ‘natural hill’ was found to be the home of an ancient pyramid.

Surveys and excavations were then conducted by archaeologists. In the 1930s, tunnels were made in order to investigate the interior of the pyramid. As a result of this, a network of passageways amounting to 8 km (4.97 miles) in length was discovered. Today, these tunnels afford visitors the chance to see for themselves the various stages of the pyramid’s construction.

Despite the Great Pyramid of Cholula’s claim to fame, it has been noted that the city of Cholula is a “surprisingly ignored place.” However, this may actually be a good thing for the pyramid in terms of conservation, as many ancient sites in the world are overburdened by the amount of tourists who visit them each year.


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