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Archaeologists think a hidden imperial tomb may be too full of deadly traps to enter

According to Hollywood, part of archaeology is breaking into ancient tombs and dealing with deadly traps, poison gas and the undead. In real life, it’s far less dangerous. In fact, despite rumors, there hasn’t been a single ancient deadly trap-filled ancient tomb discovered anywhere in the world… until now. Work on excavating an ancient Chinese imperial tomb has stopped because archaeologists are afraid it’s full of traps and poison gas.

The secret courtyard-style palace tomb is a mind-numbing discovery. Situated in the heart of the Emperor’s 22-square-mile (56-square-kilometer) mortuary compound guarded by more than 6,000 (and counting) full-size statues of warriors, musicians and acrobats, the buried palace is 2,263 by 820 feet (690 by 250 meters). It includes 18 courtyard houses overlooked by one main building, where the emperor is supposed to be. The palace—which has already been partially mapped in 3D using volumetric scanners—occupied a space of 6,003,490 cubic feet (170,000 cubic meters). That’s one fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing—for just one tomb.

Experts believe that the 249-foot-high (76-meter) structure covered with soil and kept dry thanks to a complex draining system, hides the body of the emperor and his courtiers. Nobody knows what’s the state of their bodies, but one of the leading archeologists believes that they are most likely destroyed by now.

What probably are intact are the countless treasures that—according to the ancient scrolls that describe the emperor’s long lost burial site—fill the interior of the tomb. And perhaps the deadly traps guarding them too.

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.


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    I can’t pretend this isn’t super exciting.
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