It’s a fairly common narrative device ever since Indiana Jones. Or the Tomb of Horrors, if you’re real old school about it. Anyway, you all know it: the ancient mausoleum filled with deadly traps.
Now, leaving aside boring, nitpicking questions like “how would ancient mechanisms still work and try to kill Indy 20 centuries later with zero maintenance ?”, let’s tackle the most basic question: were there ever tombs or necropolises incorporating traps designed to kill would be grave robbers ? I know some of the Pyramids had token mazes (for what good it did them, since grave robbers just tunnelled right through the sandstone) but what about the real D&D stuff like spike pits, rolling boulders, falling stone slabs, pressure plates, automated dart launchers or blade slingers, etc… ?
The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (The Terracotta Army Guy, in case you’d misplaced your Who’s Who of Chinese Emperors) is said to be protected by rivers of mercury and loaded crossbows with hair triggers activated by tripwires. It hasn’t been excavated but apparently they did some tests on the site with probes and found extremely high levels of mercury, so there’s almost certainly something there as an anti-Tomb Raiding measure.
If I’m not mistaken, the rivers or mercury were only there to depict actual rivers on a huge map of China supposedly build in the tomb, not as protection devices (and I don’t really see how mercury would protect the tomb against robbers).
By the way, I wonder when they will finally explore this tomb. I’ve been waiting for almost 40 years for it. It seems like the Chinese will explore Mars before the tomb. I’d like to understand why they don’t.
Well, besides obvious concerns about excavating the tomb of a revered Emperor and seminal figure in Chinese history (many people may feel he’s earned an undisturbed eternal rest, for a start), there’s also the embarrassing possibility that there’s actually nothing worthwhile there for any one of a number of reasons.