When the Italian traveler and adventurer Giovanni Careri visited the area around Mexico City in 1697, he was curious to see the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, which was then overgrown by jungle. With the assistance of an Indian guide, Careri went to the site, where he climbed the great Pyramid of the Sun and the smaller Pyramid of the Moon. At Teotihuacan, "Careri was immediately reminded of the Egyptian pyramids" (Fagan, 93).
There are many similarities between the pyramids of Latin America and those of Egypt, but the pyramids of these unique civilizations exhibit basic, fundamental differences as well. For example, the pyramids of Latin America have a terraced structure which features a stairway on one side and a temple on top of the pyramid. By contrast, Egyptian pyramids are characterized by straight sides with no external terraces or stairways, and the temple is located at ground level beside the pyramid.
The pyramids of Egypt and Latin America also differ in terms of the specific functions which they served for their respective societies. In both civilizations the pyramids served religious purposes, but these were unique to each. In Latin America, the pyramids were centers for religious activity. The pyramid was a place where sacred rites and ceremonies were carried out. Many of these rites featured sacrificial offerings, including human sacrifices, and were believed to be necessary in order to keep the world alive and in harmony. In Egypt, the pyramids served as funeral chambers to house the possessions and mummified bodies of the deified kings, or Pharaohs, of Egypt. As in Latin America, the Egyptian pyramids were also important sites for maintaining social and spiritual harmony, but in Egypt this was carried out through funeral rituals as well as through extensive preparations undertaken to enhance the dead ruler's transitional journey to the afterlife and the world of gods.
The pyramids of Lat...