If you’re looking for a way to incorporate ELA instruction into your social studies classroom, you’ve come to the right place. Our Mayan pyramids vs. Egyptian pyramids activity encourages students in Grades 9 and up to compare these two man-made wonders. So, what are some similarities and differences between the Mayan and Egyptian pyramids?
The Mayan pyramids were built mostly between the 3rd and 9th century AD by the Maya, a Mesoamerican civilization that arose around 1500 BC. These pyramids are located in eastern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador and they vary in style and design. Most of these structures are step pyramids—meaning their sides are not smooth but instead rise up in stages, like giant stairs. Mayan pyramids may also feature one or more actual staircases built at the top of the steps. The builders of these spectacular structures used various materials, such as stone blocks held together with lime mortar. Some pyramids were covered with plaster and painted.
The Maya positioned these pyramids to note essential points in the calendar, such as the solstice and equinox. The pyramids also functioned as temples; only priests were allowed to climb to the top of the stairs, where they performed religious rituals, including sacrifices. Pyramids were often part of large complexes that included palaces, ball courts, plazas, and courtyards.
Like the Mayan pyramids, the Egyptian pyramids are striking structures that continue to wow travelers, mathematicians, and archeologists alike. The alignment of the Great Pyramid of Giza continues to inspire wonder. The four sides of this structure align almost precisely with true north, south, east, and west. It’s speculated that the builders used the stars to make their calculations.
Egyptian pyramids have been around for over 4,500 years! Laborers built the structures primarily using solid limestone and granite blocks. The largest of the pyramids, the Great Pyramid, was the tallest man-made structure for more than 3,800 years (it’s taller than the Statue of Liberty, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and Big Ben in London). The three pyramids at Giza are visible from space!
These impressive structures were designed to be permanently sealed after the bodies of pharaohs were placed inside. Unlike the Mayan pyramids, they had no other purpose than to serve as tombs.
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