One of the greatest structures ever created by man was made without complicated writing, without metal tools, and without pack animals like horses, donkeys, or camels. The Great Pyramid of Cholula (also known as Tlachihualtepetl meaning "made by hand mountain") is a massive complex in Cholula in Puebla, Mexico.

It is the largest pyramid or temple in the Americas and the largest pyramid by volume in the world. Only the Great Pyramid at Giza (which you can also visit and go into) is generally accepted to be larger. But one of the craziest things is that it was lost for hundreds of years and only rediscovered around a hundred years ago. How can such as structure hide in plain sight like that?

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About The Great Pyramid Of Cholula

The Great Pyramid of Cholula is an adobe brick pyramid standing 55 meters or 180 feet high over the surrounding plain. That makes it much shorter than the gigantic 137 meters or 449 foot high Great Pyramid of Giza, but it is much wider. If the volume was to be the metric used to determine the size of the pyramid, then it would be almost twice the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Great Pyramid of Cholula

  • Height: 55 Meters or 180 Feet
  • Width: 450 by 450 Metres Or 1,480 by 1,480 Feet

Great Pyramid of Giza

  • Height: 137 Meter or 449 Foot
  • Width: 230 by 230 Metres or 750 by 750 Feet

The temple has been traditionally believed to have been dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl. And the architecture has been linked with that found in the once-massive city of Teotihuacan (it was once the 6th largest city in the world). Teotihuacan is also home to The Temple of the Sun - the third largest pyramid in the world and the second-largest in the Americas.

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Strangely for what is one of the largest premodern manmade structures on earth, little is known about its early history. Its construction may have begun somewhere around 300 BC.

  • Built: Around 300 BC
  • Abandoned: Around 7th or 8th Century

The pyramid is not really just one pyramid, it's six pyramids with one built on top of the other. It was successfully added to by the generations.

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  • Material: It Is Made of Mud (Adobe Bricks)
  • Oldest: Continuously Occupied Building In North America

The adobe bricks were mud mixed with sand or straw and baked hard in the sun. When it was in its heyday it was covered in black, red, and yellow insects.

If one is in Mexico City one can visit the Templo Mayor - the large Aztec pyramid at the center of their city and empire.

Related: 24 Weird Aztec Discoveries That Should Have Stayed Buried (And 1 We're Grateful For)

The Great Temple of Cholula And The Spanish

Then the Spanish arrived in Cholula on October 12th, 1519, they were expecting a fight and had been hardened by months of warring in the New World. But instead of a fight, it was a holy day for the inhabitants of Cholula. What followed was a bloodbath leaving perhaps 10% of the city's population slain.

  • Spanish Conquest: October 12th, 1519

The population in Cholula had placed their faith that their massive and generous pyramids to the gods would protect them - how many pyramids did one have to build to curry the gods' favor and protection?

But it was a grave error. The Spaniards stormed the streets and sacked the religious treasures, burning what they could of the pyramids, and within three hours they had slaughtered 3,000 people.  Chillingly, the conquistador Cortez called it the "most beautiful city outside of Spain."

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The Spaniards would go on to settle in Cholula and build their own city. While it was said the natives had a pyramid for every day of the year, the city the Spanish would build also gained that reputation for having a church for every day of the year.

But the Spanish missed something - something so big it was hiding in plain sight. They built their church - the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remediosa on what they believed to be a large hill.

  • Church: The Spanish Built A Church On It

That large hill was the Great Pyramid of Cholula hiding under tufts of grass, trees, and soil. By the time the Spaniard had arrived, it was already a thousand years old and completely hidden by vegetation. Ironically thanks to the church that now crowns it, it is also the oldest continuously occupied building in North America.

Related: This Historic Cathedral Just Could Be The Most Impressive Building In Mexico City

The Pyramid Today

According to the BBC, after it was rediscovered to have been a pyramid, excavations revealed some harrowing findings - like the deformed skulls of decapitated children.

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Today everyone can visit this stunningly huge pyramid and explore the five miles of tunnels burrowed into it in the early 20th century. The pyramid and the surrounding site remain poorly excavated and there are many questions answered and discoveries to be made.

Information about visiting can be found on the Mexican Cultural Information website.

  • Hours: 10 am to 5 pm Monday to Sunday

Next: 10 Aztec Structures And Sites You Can Visit In Mexico Today (5 Mayan)