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8 Tomb Raider-Style Traps That Totally Exist In Real Life

There may not have been giant scorpions climbing up the walls or dinosaurs stomping around, but the ancients knew a thing or two about installing home security. Check out these lethal tomb-protecting traps, and get psyched up for Tomb Raider, in stores now.

1. Automatic crossbows

Dwight Stone / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Flickr: skeggzatori

The Chinese have still not fully explored Emperor Qin Shi Huang's tomb, and a big part of that is they think the numerous pressure-plate crossbow traps -- carefully coated with a preservative called chromate -- probably still work, 2,000 years later.

2. Labyrinths

Peter Merholz / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Flickr: peterme

With false rooms, secret doors and miles of mazes, a prospective tomb raider was likely to get lost... forever.

3. Snakes!

Russ Bowling / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: robphoto

You would think that modern tomb raiders would have nothing to fear from the sacred cobras that used to guard Egyptian tombs. And granted, the original snakes would be very, very old by now.

But in 1923, after archaeologist Howard Carter opened King Tut's tomb, a cobra appeared in his house and ate his pet canary. True story. Was it a curse? Probably not. Was it an ancient order of tomb-defenders out to exact revenge? Yeah, might totally have been.

Either way, don't plunder a tomb if you're not ready to go head-to-head with some deadly-ass snakes.

4. Pits

Jeroen van Luin / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: -jvl-

Concealed pits are one of the oldest (and most effective) tricks in the book.

5. Poisonous Alchemical Powders

Joanna Bourne / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: 66992990@N00

Ancient Egyptian engineers would cover the tomb floors with hematite powder, a sharp metallic dust designed to cause a slow and painful death to those who inhaled enough of it.

And that stuff has quite the shelf life: When Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian real-life Indiana Jones, entered the Bahariya Oasis tomb in 2001, his team found the sarcophagus booby trapped with 8 inches of the stuff, forcing them to abandon their expedition until they could come back with hazmat suits and respirators.

6. Head wires

Gabriel Calderón / CC BY-SA http://2.0 / Flickr: searingheat

One particularly nasty trap, common to some pyramids, were razor-sharp invisible wires, hung exaaaaaactly at neck-level.

7. Vast Underground Lakes of Mercury

hyper7pro / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: hyper7

Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, famous above all else for the Terra cotta army he was buried with, also commissioned a series of massive rivers and lakes from mercury. These were not only accurate recreations of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, they were also... totebags poison.

8. The Mummy's Curse

Jennifer Boyer / CC BY http://2.0 / Flickr: jenniferboyer

While it's fair to say there was probably no REAL mummy's curse (although what do we know?), its legend has been one of the most effective anti-tomb-raider devices ever designed. And that legend got a huge boost when many members of Howard Carter's 1923 King Tut expedition subsequently died from unusual causes.