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 (85 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
Closer examination of the site reveals a different volume however. The complex consists of several structures built on top of each other, starting from the 3rd century BC until the 9th century AD. The picture below shows a pyramid standing on a huge platform. The base of the pyramid itself is ‘only’ 295 by 270 meters (968 by 886 ft) which gives a much smaller volume, although the Cholulu Pyramid is still the third largest pyramid ever built.
The Pyramid of Khafre is the second largest pyramid at Giza, after the Great Pyramid built by Khafre’s father Khufu. It appears to be slightly larger however as it is build at a higher elevation. The pyramid has a base length of 215.5 meter (706 ft) and originally rose to a height of 143.5 meter (471 ft) but is now 12 meters shorter. The most distinctive feature of Khafre’s Pyramid is the topmost layer of smooth stones that are the only remaining casing stones on a Giza Pyramid.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest and sole remnant of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Over 2 million blocks of stone were used to construct the pyramid, during a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. The pyramid is 230 meters (755 ft) in length and an awe-inspiring 139 meters (455 feet) high (originally 146.5 meters or 480.6 ft). So in the end, after reviewing all the biggest pyramids the Great Pyramid of Khufu remains the largest pyramid ever built.