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 archaeological discovery since Tutankhamen, 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.
The secret courtyard-style palace tomb is a mind-numbing discovery. Situated in the heart of the Emperor’s 56km² mortuary compound, guarded by more than 6000 (and counting) full-size statues of warriors, musicians and acrobats, the buried palace is 690 x 250m. 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 170,000m². That’s one fourth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing — for just one tomb.
They mention the possibility of large amounts of mercury present — thought to be fashioned into a ‘river’ — but I consider it unlikely that there are any booby traps. There may actually have been some such traps in Egypt, a few tombs in the Valley of the Kings have a very deep shaft before getting to the burial chamber, but those are not entirely understood anyway. Definitely a case where keeping it intact is probably well worth the effort.