World's Oldest Pyramids Are Discovered
David Keys Archaeology Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
Archaeologists have discovered the world's oldest pyramids - on the Atlantic coast of southern Brazil. Like the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico, the South American ones seem to have been built for religious purposes. Some contain hundreds of human burials, complete with spectacular grave goods - including stone plaques, shell breast plates and beautifully made stone birds, fish, whales and other animals.
But although the functions of the Brazilian and Egyptian pyramids were to some extent the same, there was certainly no contact between ancient Egypt and Brazil, and the concept of building pyramids was invented quite independently in both places.
Dating from 3000BC, the oldest of the Brazilian pyramids predate the earliest Egyptian example by several hundred years. The construction techniques were also markedly different, each Egyptian pyramid being built in one operation, while the Brazilian ones were each built in several phases, possibly over many decades or even centuries. And, unlike the Egyptian stone pyramids, the Brazilian ones were built exclusively of sea shells. That is why archaeologists in the past had never realised what they were. For years Brazilian prehistorians had thought that the sites were simply immense piles of domestic rubbish from settlements. But research carried out over the past four years has revealed that the "piles of ancient rubbish" were in fact deliberately built square structures of roughly pyramidic design. Initial research suggests that some of the structures were originally move 160ft high with bases covering up to 37 acres. …