The Largest Pyramid in the World

Hidden beneath a hill in Cholula, Mexico lies the biggest pyramid ever built.


The world’s largest pyramid can be found not in Egypt, but hidden beneath a hill in a small town in the central Mexican state of Puebla. Known variously as the Great Pyramid of Cholula, Pirámide Tepanapa, or, in the indigenous Nahuatl language, Tlachihualtepetl, or ‘artificial mountain’, the structure measures 400 by 400 metres and has a total volume of 4.45 million cubic metres, almost twice that of the Great Pyramid of Giza. It was first constructed around 200 BC and expanded or rebuilt several times over the following centuries by different civilisations, including the Olmecs and the Toltecs. According to Aztec mythology, it was built by Xelhua, a giant whose edifice so upset the gods that they hurled fire down upon it. 

Excavated part of the pyramid

At its height over 100,000 people lived around the pyramid, although by the time the Spanish arrived in 1520 it had become covered by dirt and was hidden from view, with newer temples constructed on its outskirts. Hernán Cortés and his men slaughtered many of the Cholulans, probably to scare the inhabitants of the nearby Aztec capital Tenochtitlan into submission, but, to judge by the church they built on top (still standing today), the Spanish were clearly unaware of the hill’s true nature. The pyramid was re-discovered in the late 19th century and since then archaeologists have begun to excavate the network of tunnels that run through its base.