Aztec pyramids, pyramid-shaped structures, are an important part of ancient architecture of the Aztec Civilization. These structures were usually step pyramids with temples on top – more akin to the ziggurats of Mesopotamia than to the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. The Mesoamerican region's largest pyramid by volume – indeed, the largest in the world by volume – is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, in the Mexican state of Puebla.
The one noticeable feature about the Aztec pyramids was the step pattern incorporated in the design. These Aztec pyramids were mainly built for religious purposes. As mentioned before, the Aztecs were a religious group of people. These pyramids were therefore used to worship their Gods as well as to offer a sacrifice. The temple area on the top of the pyramid often had flat spaces, which played the role of a sacrificial block.
Perhaps the best known of the Aztec pyramids is the Great Pyramid, or Templo Mayor. This Aztec temple was the main temple of their religion and was also the capital of Tenochititlan, which is the modern day Mexico City. This step pyramid rose to an impressive 197 feet above the city. Like all Aztec temples, it contained stairways leading to shrines, but these shrines were built specifically in order to pay tribute to the Aztec gods of Huitzilopochtli (the god of war and the sun) and Tlaloc (the god of rain and fertility).
According to Aztec writings and religious artwork found at archeological sites, the Aztec pyramids were central to the civilization's religion. The pyramids housed temples, and religious sacrifices were made in front of the temples. Human sacrifice was the most common type of sacrifice. The priests would sacrifice the victim by cutting out her heart, offering that to the deity, and then throwing the body down the steps. Voluntary bloodletting was another type of sacrifice performed on the pyramids.
Most Aztec public buildings consisted of stone platforms, or rooms built on top of stone platforms. Professor Michael Smith classifies these as: double-temple pyramids, single-temple pyramids, circular temples, ballcourts, shrines, and palaces. All Aztec cities, except the most powerful capitals, used the single-temple pyramid as their major temple, and most or all Aztec cities had additional, smaller, single-temple pyramids (in local parishes) in addition to their main temple. Most pictures in the codices are of the single-temple type.
Sacrificial pyramids were important in Aztec architecture. The major cities each had at least one. They usually had four stages, with platforms in between each. The pyramids had stairs up all four sides, and at the top, there was a sacrificial temple. These look somewhat like Egyptian pyramids,but are especially amazing because the Aztecs did not have wheels, pulleys, or other things that the Egyptians used to build their pyramids. Often, the people of a city would decide they wanted their pyramid bigger and better. Instead of building a new one, they would build on top of the old one. Pyramids were also built as temples for the gods. They would have statues, and other decorations. One of the most famous pyramids is the pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacan.