Few, if any, human-made structures capture the imagination in quite the way ancient pyramids do or leave us in such awe of what’s possible through sheer determination and thousands of man-hours. Those massive constructs, located in Egypt and Mesoamerica for the most part, remain a source of interest among scientists, historians and sightseers. Still, the pyramids are shrouded in mystery and continue to be object of wonder and speculation. Centuries after their construction, human work force behind building them remain highly disputed.

In this article, you’ll uncover the mysteries lurking behind these ancient wonders as we examine: how were they built? Where did such advanced knowledge and capabilities come from at a time when our ancestors are supposed to have lived in caves? And who really built them… or why?

Workers' village ruins near the pyramids in Egypt showing ancient construction sites

Historical Background of the Pyramids

1 – The vast expanse of the Pyramids of Egypt, in particular the Great Pyramid at Giza are some of the most famous and well-researched structures on Earth. Great togelon Pyramid of Giza was built for Pyrimid Khufu(also known as Cheopes ) Great pyramid was build before construction began Construction of the great pyramids completed in 2580–2560 BCE and it is located at Egypt. For more than 3,800 years, this Wonder of the Ancient World made man’s structures look tiny; it was the tallest building in existence from its completion until the late 19 th century.

Such pyramids were built by several states of pre-columbian Mesoamerica; Mesoamerican is recognized as being the home to Indian civilizations including the Maya, Aztec and Olmec etc. Although they are similar in name, pyramids such the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or the Pyramid of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá were constructed long after their Egyptian namesakes—about 100 CE to 1500 CE.

Construction Techniques

One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the pyramids is how they were constructed with the limited technology available at the time. The precision and scale of these structures are astounding, and researchers have proposed various theories to explain their construction.

Egyptian Pyramids

The construction of the Egyptian pyramids, and particularly the enormous Great Pyramid of Egypt, involves many questions in an attempt to understand how it was made. Theories of how the pyramids were built vary, with some proposing vast labor forces working with simple forms of technology to ideas involving more complex methods like the use of ramps and levers. But the new findings indicate that a system involving both types of ramp was likely used to transport the huge limestone blocks—including some, like those on the exterior, that weighed as much as 80 tons—to Tura and other sites.

One common hypothesis is that the blocks were chipped out of quarries, floated down the Nile River and then hauled or dragged on sledges to the pyramid location. The workforce – skilled labourers rather than slaves as originally believed — laboured in organised shifts and were properly fed and housed at nearby workers’ villages.

Mesoamerican Pyramids

Mesoamerican pyramids are also something of a puzzle in this regard. Mesoamerican pyramids, unlike the Egyptian pyramids which were tombs, are temples that built on top of each other in layers over centuries. The construction methods differed among each civilization, but they mostly used stone and mortar.

An example is the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, with its layers made up of adobe bricks. It was built around 200 CE and covered by stone at a later date. Maya pyramids, such as those at Tikal and Palenque served a similar function; however, although they were often built for specific religious events or due to the integral significance of chrono-cosmology in Maya architectural tradition, Sautam already found it worthwhile to point out that not all Mayan pyramidal buildings exhibited features regular with this schema.

Some temples such as the Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichen Itza are physical calendars reflected by mixtures of projected stairways and stacked platforms. These structures were used so someone could physically climb up the steps on each day of calendar year (or pyramid yields?)! Through a mixture of manpower, simple tools and nifty engineering, the builders were able to accomplish what you see below.

Aerial view of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan surrounded by greenery.

Cultural Significance

The pyramids were more than just architectural feats; they held deep cultural and religious significance for the civilizations that built them.

Egyptian Pyramids

In ancient Egypt, the pyramids were primarily tombs for pharaohs and elite members of society. They were designed to ensure a smooth journey to the afterlife, reflecting the Egyptians’ complex beliefs about death and the afterlife. The shape of the pyramid, with its pointed top, was believed to help the soul of the deceased ascend to the heavens and join the gods.

The interior chambers and passageways of the pyramids were often filled with treasures, food, and artifacts intended to provide for the pharaoh in the afterlife. The walls were adorned with hieroglyphics and carvings depicting scenes from the deceased’s life and religious texts, such as the Pyramid Texts, which contained spells and instructions for navigating the afterlife.

Mesoamerican Pyramids

The Mesoamerican Ones (In an entirely different sense of the word, of course.) Derived from Spanish caja, a word often used for larger boxes or chests; they were typically the focus of an oblong chamber in major ceremonial centers which center would usually be treated as wellQuite commonly cult-chambers (temples) where offerings/ritual activities regarded the gods. Take the Pyramid of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá, which was named after the feathered serpent god Kukulcán and is designed with myriad astronomical alignments in mind.

In addition to serving as a focal point of religious life, the pyramids were also an important factor in the social and political life of these civilizations. Such structures were symbols of power and authority; they exhibited the ruler’s capacity to mobilize resources and labor. The pyramids served to further emphasize the strong connection between kings and gods, that it was these rulers who were supposed to rule as a divine right.

Enduring Mysteries

Despite extensive research and exploration, many mysteries still surround the pyramids. These enigmatic structures continue to inspire curiosity and speculation.

The Purpose and Function of Pyramids

While it is widely accepted that the Egyptian pyramids served as tombs, the exact purposes of some structures remain debated. For instance, the presence of air shafts in the Great Pyramid has led to various theories, including astronomical alignments and ventilation for the afterlife journey.

In Mesoamerica, the dual function of pyramids as both tombs and temples adds to the complexity of understanding their full significance. Some researchers believe that the pyramids also served as astronomical observatories or markers of important celestial events.

Construction Methods

The exact methods used to construct the pyramids continue to be a topic of debate. Theories range from the use of large labor forces and primitive tools to more advanced techniques involving ramps, levers, and even water flotation methods. Recent discoveries, such as the remains of workers’ villages and tools, have provided valuable insights but have not definitively answered all questions.

Hidden Chambers and Structures

Advances in technology, such as ground-penetrating radar and muon tomography, have led to the discovery of previously unknown chambers and structures within the pyramids. For example, in 2017, scientists announced the discovery of a large void within the Great Pyramid using muon tomography. The purpose and contents of these hidden chambers remain unknown, fueling further speculation and exploration.

Astronomical Alignments

The pyramids’ alignments with celestial bodies have long fascinated researchers. The Great Pyramid’s sides are closely aligned with the cardinal points, and the Pyramid of Kukulcán’s design incorporates solar and lunar cycles. These alignments suggest that the builders had advanced knowledge of astronomy, raising questions about how they acquired such knowledge and the full extent of its significance.

Intricate stone carvings on a Mesoamerican pyramid at Chichén Itzá

Modern Discoveries and Theories

The study of pyramids is an ongoing process, with new discoveries and theories emerging regularly. Modern technology has revolutionized the field, allowing researchers to explore the pyramids in unprecedented detail.

Remote Sensing and Imaging

Techniques such as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and 3D scanning have provided detailed maps of pyramid sites, revealing previously hidden structures and offering new insights into construction methods and site planning. These technologies have also helped identify potential excavation sites, leading to new discoveries.

Genetic and Forensic Studies

Advances in genetic and forensic studies have shed light on the lives of the people who built and were buried in the pyramids. Analysis of human remains and artifacts has provided information about diet, health, and social structure, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the civilizations behind these monumental structures.


The ancient pyramids remain one of humanity’s most enduring mysteries, captivating the imagination and curiosity of people worldwide. These structures are not just architectural marvels but also profound cultural and religious symbols that reflect the ingenuity, beliefs, and aspirations of the civilizations that built them. Despite centuries of study, the pyramids continue to hold secrets, inviting ongoing exploration and discovery. If you like reading this article, please consider reading our article about Tagine.