Boobytrapped Treasures To Make Indiana Jones Quake With Fear

By Karen Harris

American actor Harrison Ford on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Source: (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

Every Indiana Jones movie, as well as many other, like Tomb Raider, Goonies, and Aladdin, have one thing in common—boobytraps. After watching these flicks, you may come away with the belief that all ancient people devised elaborate defense measures for their treasures and tombs. While it is true that most of the movie boobytraps are just a plot device and a way to show off more special effects, there were, in fact, several known boobytraps from antiquities. Let’s take a look at some of the real-life boobytraps that are so cleverly designed that they would make Indiana Jones quake with fear. 

The boobytrapped Money Pit of Oak Island. Source: (

The Money Pit of Oak Island

The Money Pit on Oak Island in Nova Scotia is probably the best-known example of a historical boobytrap. Since 1795, treasure hunters have been trying to unearth a mysterious treasure that they believe was buried at the foot of an oak tree. Teenage boys exploring the island noted a square depression in the ground where the dirt had been disturbed. Digging down, the lads discovered wooden planks in the shaft at 10-foot intervals and then the shaft suddenly filled with salt water. The boys had triggered an underground boobytrap that protects the treasure under a never-ending flow of ocean water. Still today, treasure hunters have been unable to reach the treasure. Just as the brothers on History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island, who have been throwing money at the endeavor for several seasons now, but with no avail.  

Cambodia's Baphuon Temple held a hidden sand trap. Source: (

The Baphuon Temple of Angkor

Built to honor the Hindu God, Shiva, the Baphuon Temple of Cambodia was built in the middle of the 11th century. It was a giant, 165-foot tall, three-tiered structure that held a boobytrapped secret. Atop the temple was a bronze altar. Later, the bronze was removed to make way for the enormous reclining Buddha statue that was placed on the second story of the building. When installing the statue, the worker removed a few seemingly unimportant stones from a wall. This wall, however, held back a mountain of loose sand. When the stones were removed, the sand poured out of the temple, covering the reclining Buddha statue and destroying part of the temple. The mess wasn’t cleaned up until 1960. 

The red queen was covered in deadly poison. Source: (

The Mayan’s Red Queen of Palenque

No culture wants the graves of their dead to be opened and desecrated and the Mayans were no different. To protect the tombs of at least two dead nobility, the Mayans devised a clever and deadly boobytrap. The Red Queen of Palenque and Lord Pascal are buried in separate tombs at the base of two different pyramids. Stairways leading to both of these tombs were filled with stones and dirt and sealed closed under a false floor after the burial. All this meant that it took archeologists a long time to find the tombs and to dig them out. Once they did, they were in for one more boobytrapped surprise. Both sarcophagi had been filled with bright red cinnabar, a dangerous and deadly neurotoxin. The poison not only permeated the bones of the deceased, turning them bright red, but it tainted the jewels and gems that were buried with them. 

A bust of Amenhotep III of Egypt. Source: (

The Tomb of Amenhotep III in Egypt

In most cases, the ancient Egyptians protected their tombs by placing a curse on them and maybe tossing in a few scorpions for back-up. But the tomb of Amenhotep III also used an ingenious boobytrap to keep the tomb’s contents safe from grave robbers. Descending into the tomb, the tunnel opened into a chamber with a moderate amount of treasure in it. This was just a ruse to through tomb robbers off the trail. Behind a hidden wall, was the rest of the tomb, with its lavish treasure trove. Getting to it, however, could be deadly. A few steps in and the false floor would crumble away, sending the grave robber into a 20-foot pit. The temple even paid nearby villagers to replace the false floor each time the boobytrap was tripped. 

An army of terracotta warriors guard the tomb of a Chinese emperor. Source: (

The Tomb of Qin Shi Huang in China

The Emperor Qin Shi Huang of China was so extra careful with his tomb, making it the most protected tomb ever. First, it is guarded over by the magnificent Terracotta Warriors, an army of more than 8,000 lifelike soldiers carved from terracotta. Next, the tomb is protected by a series of mechanical crossbows that, when triggered, unleash a volley of razor-sharp crossbow bolts at the intruders. Lastly, the Emperor was supposedly buried in a lake of mercury. To date, archeologists have not gotten too close to the tomb of Qin Shi Huang because mercury levels rise considerably the closer you get to the actual tomb. The concentrations of mercury are at lethal levels. 

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Karen Harris


Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.