When you hear the word pyramids, you probably think of the iconic structures of Egypt, but did you know that pyramids exist all over the world? They are not limited to Egypt, they can be found outside of it as well. What’s even more amazing is that the ancient Greeks were building pyramids at the same time as the Egyptians, or even before them, writes Ancient Origins.
Known as the “Pyramids of Argolis”, these ancient structures are located on the plains of Argolis in Greece and date back 5,000 years. One of the most famous among them is the Hellinikon pyramid.
The Hellinikon pyramid is mentioned by the ancient Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias in his “Description of Greece”. Pausanias describes two pyramidal structures, one of which served as the tomb of warriors who died in the battle for the Argive throne, and the other is believed to be the tomb of Argives who died in battle around 669 BC. He writes the following:
“On the road from Argos to Epidaurus there is a building on the right, very much like a pyramid, with shields of the Argive form carved in relief upon it. Here a struggle for the throne took place between Protus and Acrisius; It is said to have ended in a draw and a reconciliation then took place as they failed to gain a decisive victory. It is said that they and their hosts were armed with shields first used in this battle. A common tomb was erected here for those who fell on both sides, as they were fellow citizens and relatives.”
Historically, the age of the pyramid has been a matter of debate. In 1938, an American archaeological expedition estimated its construction in approximately 300-400 BC. But in 1991, a scientific team led by Professor Liritsis used a new method to calculate the age of the pyramid, placing it at around 3000 BC. Later research by the Academy of Athens and the University of Edinburgh revised this date to 2720 BC.
If these findings are accurate, it would mean that the pyramid is older than the famous Pyramid of Djoser in Egypt, which is believed to be one of the oldest Egyptian pyramids, although the exact age of such structures remains disputed.
It is important to note that the Hellenicone pyramid does not even come close in size to its Egyptian counterparts. Its dimensions are only 7 x 9 meters. Yet this building is of great importance for understanding the beginnings of Greek civilization. Unfortunately, the excavations of this monument have been surprisingly neglected.
In 2017, the Greek Ministry of Culture even questioned whether the building was really a pyramid. In an official statement addressing the dispute, they suggested it could be a fortress or monument rather than a prehistoric pyramid, suggesting earlier excavations had been overlooked.
The Pyramid of Ligurio
Another remarkable Greek pyramid is located northwest of the city of Ligurio, at the foot of Mount Arachnaion. Built in the 4th century BC. e. of limestone blocks, this pyramid is larger than the Hellinikon pyramid and measures 14 x 12 meters.
The interior of the pyramid is divided into four areas separated by walls made of smaller, irregular stones. There was once a stone bench on the outer wall surrounding it on all sides. Today, only the base remains of the pyramid.
Researchers believe that this pyramid was originally built as a military fort due to its proximity to the ancient Argos-Epidaverus road, where several forts were built along the route. In 1937, during archaeological excavations, pottery shards dating from the 5th-4th century BC were found. e., as well as a coin from Epidaurus, dated 323-300 BC. A fire damaged the pyramid in the 1st century BC and its final destruction probably occurred in the 4th or 5th century AD.
Remains of the pyramid of Ligurio, Greece / Photo: Schuppi/CC BY-SA 4.0
Some historians try to draw parallels between the ancient Egyptian pyramids and the Greek ones. They even suggest that Greek pyramids may have served as warehouses for Egyptian mercenaries, or that the tradition of building pyramids for burial purposes came to Greece from Egypt. However, there is no strong evidence to support these theories.
More conservative theories suggest that the Greek pyramids were simply used as storage sites for agricultural products or as hiding places for people during times of conflict. It should be noted that no human remains were found inside the pyramids, despite the fact that Pausanias described them as tombs.
In conclusion, the Greek pyramids, although not as spectacular as the Egyptian ones, are remarkable historical artifacts that challenge our understanding of ancient civilizations. Although many questions remain open, they offer a unique perspective on Greece’s rich history and the mysteries of its past.