Once believed to be the oldest in the world, the Djoser pyramid in Egypt may be overtaken by structures in Peru or Indonesia.

Djoser Pyramid in Egypt. Photo: Liya Blumesser

From Egypt to ancient Mesoamerica, many of the great civilizations of ancient times shared a love of pyramid building. Famous tourist destinations like Giza (Egypt) and Chichen Itza (Mexico) may be the first places people think of when talking about pyramids, but neither of them is actually a place with a long pyramid. oldest in the world.

The oldest pyramid in Egypt

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

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest in the cluster of 3 Giza pyramids, built for pharaoh Khufu. Djoser existed about 70 years earlier, and 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 project was high priest Imhotep, who was also an advisor to pharaoh Djoser. Famous for his knowledge of art and science, Imhotep was worshiped 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 world have changed this thinking.
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Steps leading up to one of the pyramids at Caral. Photo: Ernesto Benavides/AFP

The oldest pyramid in Peru

In ancient America, pyramids were popular, with steep-sided temples springing up during the Mayan, Aztec and Incan periods. To reach the oldest pyramid in the Western Hemisphere, it is necessary to travel a long distance from the south of the Central American jungle to the high desert of Peru. Here, archaeologists accidentally discovered a massive and ancient city called Caral in the early 20th century.

Due to the complexity of the city, scientists initially believed that Caral was built relatively recently. However, a study published in 2001 found this to be incorrect. Using carbon dating to find the age of the materials used to build Caral, the research team discovered that the city could have been formed in 2627 BC.

Based on this discovery, archaeologists speculate that the six pyramids here – including the giant Piรกmide pyramid – may have existed before Saqqara in Egypt. However, because it is not possible to accurately determine the age of the buildings in Caral, it is difficult to confirm 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 determine whether the world’s oldest pyramid is in Egypt or Peru, but another candidate in Indonesia is threatening to take the title. The giant megalithic complex 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, caused a lot of controversy and could not convince many scientists. However, a team of archaeologists claims to have found evidence that the hill was intentionally built by humans in several stages over thousands of years.

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

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