When people hear the word “pyramid” the first thing they usually think of are the great pyramids of Egypt. Would it surprise you to know that the tallest pyramids in the world are actually here in Mexico? With a total volume of 4.45 million meters squared, with a 4-sided base measuring 450 x 450 meters and a height of 66 meters, the Cholula Pyramid is the largest pyramid in the world.
However, the word “pyramid” in the singular form is misleading, as it was originally 8 pyramids, one atop the other. With erosion, only 5 or 6 pyramids are currently in existence.
At first, this pyramid could be mistaken for a hill. When the Spanish invaded, that is exactly what they imagined it to be, and built the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios (The Church of Our Lady of Remedies) on top of this hill. Little did they know what lay beneath the ground on which they were standing.
Somewhere around 200 BC the first of eight pyramids was built. In reality, it was not so much a pyramid as it was a temple to the god Quetzalcóatl. As each culture was supplanted by another – The Olmecs, Toltecs and Aztecs – the complex grew.
Unlike other pyramids, there are stairs on all four sides of the pyramid, so it can be climbed from any direction. Archaeologists have dug 5 miles of tunnels through the pyramids, so tourists such as myself can explore them from inside. they have also reconstructed one side of one of the lower segments of the pyramid.
One of the objects found during the archaeological exploration was a mural of adults drinking. A replica was created on the grounds of this site.
But the pyramids are not the only structures at this site. As with many ancient ruins, there were also altars and evidence of human sacrifice. There is evidence of the sacrifice of children with various explanations given. One explanation was that during a drought, the priests believed that children should be the messengers to beg the rain god, Tlaloc, to bring rain to the land. Two of the decapitated children discovered at this site had severely deformed skulls, so there may have been other, or additional, explanations for this practice because of the children’s deformities.
Also within this complex is a stone plaza, where, if you stand in a certain place and clap your hands, you can hear the call of a bird called the quetzal. Here is a video of the actual bird and its call:
Link to the video of our guide clapping his hands in the plaza to make the sound of the quetzal bird. You can also see a stone slab at the center and the Church of Our Lady of Remedies (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios) at the top of the earthen mound under which the pyramids are buried.
Beginning over 2000 years ago, Cholula grew from a small village to a city ruled by the Olmecs, Toltecs, the Aztecs, and finally was conquered by the Spanish under the leadership of Cortés. It is an incredible feeling to stand among the remains of this temple and ponder the lives and events of the living, breathing people who inhabited this place so long ago.
I have not gone into as great a depth about the history of this area as I could have in order to save time and space. To read more about the geography and history of this archaeological wonder, you can click on the link here: https://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-americas/once-hidden-plain-sight-and-surprisingly-ignored-great-pyramid-cholula-020650 and perhaps put it on your bucket list of interesting places to visit in the future.