Any real-world rolling boulders and poison darts?
December 20, 2007 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Have there ever been any Indiana Jones-style booby traps discovered in real-world archaeological/exploration expeditions?

It's quite the staple of adventure movies like The Goonies, Indiana Jones, National Treasure to discover ancient ruins that are littered with working traps designed to thwart intruders. I was wondering if any such traps have actually been discovered on real-world expeditions, and if so, were any of them still in working condition when discovered?
posted by sherlockt to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This seems to be pretty definitive.
posted by logicpunk at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2007 [3 favorites]

The money pit on Oak Island?
posted by jwells at 10:16 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

As a working archaeologist, I can honestly say I wish stuff like that would happen. I spend most of my time in front of a computer screen.

On the other hand, my brother is a cop and I've been threatened at gun-point and/or shot at numerous times, WAY more than he has in the course of doing our respective jobs. Lets see, add to that chased by an angry bull across a barb-wire fence, avoiding a huge landslide of boulders caused by one our own, and removing a rusted flat tire by draining the brake fluid and using that as a lubricant on the lugs 100 miles from anything that resembles a town.

That was this year. I could go on. There are booby traps everywhere, metaphorically speaking. Archaeology today is a blend of banality and outright absurdism.
posted by elendil71 at 10:42 AM on December 20, 2007 [18 favorites]

I came in to talk about Oak Island :)

Thanks for the Straight Dope link, thats pretty cool reading!

posted by legotech at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2007

Indiana: This site also demonstrates one of the great dangers of archeology, not to life and limb, although that does sometimes take place, I'm talking about folklore.
posted by The Deej at 12:00 PM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nothing quite so exciting, but the first of the Egyptian tombs built in the valley of the kings in Luxor (possibly belonging to Tuthmosis, but my memory is shaking), had one area where the floor suddenly dropped about 10-15 ft., as a way of killing thieves who would be walking in the dark and not notice the fall. It didn't work, though.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:50 PM on December 20, 2007

Working from memory here, but there are a couple of instances where passage-blocking mechanisms were trap-like.

One was a tomb passage blocked by a very large block of stone. The block was supported above the passage using a system that included sand (I think), which served to slow the descent of the block after the work was done inside. Being caught under or on the wrong side of the block would've been death.

The other is the use of large stones in a disc shape. As a tunnel opens into a chamber, the disc, which weighed several hundred pounds, was against the wall in the chamber up a slight incline. This was a fortification; someone coming into the chamber could pull the support for the disc, which would roll (I believe there were guiding channels) across the tunnel and present a solid rock face for pursuers. You would not want to be in the path of the disc as it came down.

Another possible inadvertant mechanism could be 'bad air.' Incautious explorers or graverobbers could've run into accumulated noxious gases or low oxygen situations, and created them if they were using flaming torches to light there way. If, hypothetically, the accumulated gas was methane, the results could've been impressive.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:34 AM on December 21, 2007

The City of the Great King has a description of the 'roll away the stone' mechanism in the Tomb of the Kings.
posted by dragonsi55 at 9:23 AM on December 21, 2007

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