Could Ancient Chinese Tomb Have Working Booby Traps?

It’s wrong to say, “We sure hope so!” isn’t it? Yeah, okay, never mind.

While researching an article on scary, weird, awesome – and dumb – booby traps, both from history and modern times, for UJBR – we came across this story from Gizmodo:

After discovering a secret palace hidden in China’s first emperor massive burial complex, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang’s tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury.

[…]Talking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, the archeologists working at the excavation said that “it’s like having a present all wrapped at home, knowing that inside is what you always wanted, and not being able to open it.” But, at the same time, nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum’s dangerous traps—they’re detailed in the same texts that recount its abundant riches.

Some of those traps supposedly include crossbows – perhaps like the one pictured above – which most scientists believe would not stay functional after so many centuries. But:

Even if the traps don’t work, there is still the matter of the high, deadly concentration of mercury inside the tomb. On-site measurements indicate dangerous levels, which may come from another feature described in the scrolls: Imperial engineers created large rivers of quicksilver inside the tomb. So much that the level of mercury inside could be deadly for any unprotected adventurers.


• Wikipedia on Qin Shi Huang here.

• LiveScience on Qin Shi Huang’s tomb here.

• The Daily Mail on the story here.

• The Straight Dope: “Were ancient tombs really booby-trapped?”

• And, finally, from Uncle John’s Curiously Compelling Bathroom Reader (page 54), this:

In 2002 a Dutch guy set up a booby trap to protect his garden shed: If you opened the door to the shed—a shotgun would blast you in the stomach. The guy was so proud of his garden shed booby trap that he showed it off to some friends…by opening the door to the shed…upon which he was immediately shot in the stomach by his own booby trap. When police arrived they discovered why the guy had set up a booby trap to guard his garden shed: he had 15 marijuana plants in there. When he recovered from the shotgun blast…he went to jail.