What is the oldest pyramid in the world?

Once thought to be the world's oldest, the pyramid of Djoser in Egypt may have been taken over by works in Peru or Indonesia.

Pyramid of Djoser in Egypt. Photo: Liya Blumesser

From Egypt to ancient Mesoamerica, many great ancient civilizations shared a common interest in building pyramids. Popular tourist attractions like Giza (Egypt) and Chichen Itza (Mexico) may be the first place people think of when they think of pyramids, but neither of them have been home to pyramids for long. oldest in the world.

Egypt's oldest pyramid

A few kilometers south of the famous Great Pyramid of Giza is Egypt's oldest pyramid, Djoser. Located at Saqqara, this pyramid was built around 2630 BC to bury pharaoh Djoser.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest of the three Giza pyramids, built for pharaoh Khufu. Djoser, which existed about 70 years ago, has a slightly different structure than the three triangular pyramids of Giza because it was built by stacking stone platforms on top of each other, forming a stepped pyramid.

The architect of this building was the high priest Imhotep, who was also an advisor to the pharaoh Djoser. Renowned for his knowledge of the arts and sciences, Imhotep was honored as a god after his death.

For a long time, experts considered Djoser to be the oldest pyramid in the world. However, more recent discoveries on the other side of the globe have changed this thinking.

Steps lead up to one of the pyramids at Caral. Photo: Ernesto Benavides/AFP

Peru's oldest pyramid

In ancient America, pyramids were very popular with steep-sided temples rising in the Maya, Aztec and Inca times. To reach the oldest pyramid in the Western Hemisphere, it is necessary to travel a long way from the south of the Central American jungle to the high deserts of Peru. Here, archaeologists happened to discover a massive and ancient city called Caral in the early 20th century.

Due to the city's complexity, scientists initially assumed that Caral was built relatively recently. However, a study published in 2001 found this to be incorrect. Using carbon isotope dating to date the materials used to build Caral, the team found that the city could have been around as far back as 2627 BC.

Based on this discovery, archaeologists speculate, the six pyramids here - including the giant Pirámide pyramid - may have existed before Saqqara in Egypt. However, since the exact dates of the buildings in Caral have not been determined, it is difficult to say which ancient civilization completed its pyramid first.

Gunung Padang structure in Indonesia. Photo: Wikimedia

Gunung Padang - controversial structure

For decades, archaeologists have been trying to figure out whether the world's oldest pyramid is located in Egypt or Peru, but another "candidate" in Indonesia is threatening to take the title. The huge megalithic population of Gunung Padang is located on a prominent hill and some scholars believe that this hill may have been man-made.

The new hypothesis was first proposed in 2018, causing controversy and not being able to convince many scientists. However, a team of archaeologists claims to have found evidence that the hill was purposefully built by humans in stages over thousands of years.

Using ground-penetrating radar, they detected traces of the foundation built at least 9,500 years ago, possibly even up to 28,000 years. If the results are verified, Gunung Padang will become the world's oldest pyramid, far ahead of other candidates. But now, most people think that this is just a hill.

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