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Tonina Pyramid, Largest Pyramid in Mexico

Researchers confirm that recently discovered Tonina Pyramid is Largest Pyramid in Mexico

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It was just over five years ago that researchers in Mexico discovered an enormous pyramid of the Maya civilization in Toniná,  Chiapas. The fact that the pyramid had remained concealed under what was believed to be a natural hill for around 1,700 years is truly incredible, particularly considering that it has been confirmed as the largest pyramid in Mexico and is even taller than Teotihuacan’s enormous Pyramid of the Sun.

The pyramid, which measures 75 meters (246 feet) in height, was first excavated by archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in 2010.

La Jornada reports that it was found during explorations of the acropolis of Toniná in what is now the Mexican state of Chiapas. The archaeological site of Toniná sits on a platform covering 6 hectares and consists of seven terraces on the north side of the platform which rise above a plaza. Social, political, economic, and religious structures were constructed on the terraces, including housing, administrative units, and groups of temple-pyramids. There is also a ballgame court at the site, and over 100 carved monuments dating from the 6 th to the 9 th centuries AD.

Toniná has been described as an aggressive state that used warfare to develop a powerful kingdom that rivalled Palenque. Toniná eventually became the dominant city in the west of the Maya region.

The Acropolis of Toniná, occupying seven terraces upon a hillside.

The Acropolis of Toniná, occupying seven terraces upon a hillside. (Wikimedia Commons)

Emiliano Gallaga, director of the archaeological zone, told La Jornada that the pyramid was covered in vegetation and was initially believed to be a natural hill. However, exploration of the site soon revealed that the structure was almost entirely man-made, constructed by the ancient Maya inhabitants of Toniná.

Three-dimensional scanning of the pyramid revealed that it was “one of the largest constructions in Mesoamerica, comparable in size only to great Mayan cities like Tikal and El Mirador in Guatemala,” said Gallaga. “Toniná is bigger than we suspected. The pyramids are connected by roads located on top of the surrounding elevations.”

The scale of the pyramid at Tonina is comparable in size only to the great Maya cities of Guatemala, such as Tikal. Pictured here, the central acropolis at Tikal.

The scale of the pyramid at Tonina is comparable in size only to the great Maya cities of Guatemala, such as Tikal. Pictured here, the central acropolis at Tikal. Image Source: Simon Danhauer / Fotolia

Gallaga added that, after evaluating all the information gathered from exploratory studies, it can be confirmed that the pyramid exceeds the height of the Pyramid of the Sun at  Teotihuacan, which previously held the position as the tallest pyramid in Mexico at 65 meters (213 feet) in height.

Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan

Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan (Wikimedia Commons)

Featured image: Overview of the northern part of the acropolis of Tonina, Chiapas Photo DMC INAH / H. Montaño

By April Holloway



Cool. And interesting, the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, discovered in April 2005, is 220 meters tall (if measured from the land that adjoins it to the north) and almost 400 meters tall if measured from the middle of the Fojnica River (where its eastern face begins).

well y'all still argue which came first, chicken or egg... glad to read the article though and hope i can go see the pyramids in mexico some day! i have no agenda to prove here but i am sure any pyramid in chiapas would beat the smog of mexico city any day.

As a researcher in my own right, I am always wary of the official dating of such monuments to fit them into a conveniently accepted time frame. This one being a case in point: how was this site dated? Was organic matter taken from under a foundation stone and subjected to Carbon 14? If the answer is no  (a typical pattern in archaeology), then let us assume it was built by an earlier culture and adopted and adapted to the needs of a later civilization.

Freddy Silva

Best-selling author, researcher.


Each Maya ruler routinely added a layer to a pre-existing pyramid as his claim to fame. At Chitzen Itza the interior of one of the largest pyramids had been tunneled out so you can walk in and see a buried predecessor pyramid.

Tonina and Palenque seemed to have a long lasting rivalry for which there is as yet no explanation.

All of the Spanish expeditions to the new world were charged with bringing treasure (gold) to the royal court which had financed the expedition. The myth of bringing Christ to the heathens was a cover story.

Give it a rest, Tom.


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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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