Follow TV Tropes


Ancient Tomb

Go To

This choice is especially popular among vampires and mummies, although any form of pure evil should find that an ancient tomb makes an easily converted live-work space. The stone halls and Gothic decor will make you the envy of every angst-ridden teenager, and a coffin or mausoleum is usually available for your personal convenience. You can sleep until the foolish adventurers rouse you from your thousand-year slumber, and devour not just them but all mankind.
How to Be a Villain, Neil Zawacki

Tombs, burial chambers, sepulchers, mausoleums, charnel houses, ossuaries, catacombs, crypts, sometimes even dungeons.

An important stock setting, and the natural habitat of the Adventurer Archaeologist and other adventurous types.

Popular in both horror and action-adventure fiction. Eldritch Abominations, Dracula, zombies, mummies, ghouls, demons, and other stock horror-movie monsters can often be found here. Usually comes in two varieties; the elaborate one built by a similarly-ancient civilization (Aztecs and Egyptians particularly) with plenty of Booby Traps and ancient curses, and a European-style gothic tomb full of gargoyles, vampires, skeletons, and corpses chained there by petty nobles.

May overlap with Indian Burial Ground, and in particularly elaborate cases, Temple of Doom. Note that a can of evil or Tailor-Made Prison may be disguised as, or converted from, a tomb. Either way, beware not to suffer the Curse of the Pharaoh.



    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin explored these in Cigars of the Pharaoh and Prisoners of the Sun.
  • Cleopatra in Space: The cast regularly finds themselves in these as they look for ancient artifacts.
    Cleo: Nothing good ever happens to me in tombs.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Diana, Etta, Bobby, Glamora and two Holliday College professors go to a recently discovered ancient Egyptian tomb where they run afoul of the Curse of the Pharaoh who is there entombed.

    Fan Works 
  • The Writing on the Wall features Daring Do and a team of archaeologists and laborers working on excavating what they believe to be an ancient tomb built with very advanced techniques - it is thousands of years older than the oldest known buildings built by ponies. Unfortunately, everyone is Wrong Genre Savvy; the building isn't a tomb at all. It's a site to store nuclear waste.


  • The Lord of the Rings had the Barrow-downs. Much of the underground cities and mines of Moria might also qualify; though not built as a tomb, it ended up as one.
  • Star Wars: Korriban, the desert world, full of Sith tombs, Sith spirits, and living Sith busily using these things to learn new Sith abilities.
  • In The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones, an ornate mausoleum sits in the courtyard of the royal palace, housing the body of King Amil the Great, who united Dalemark after a very, very long interregnum. It actually contains the Big Bad Kankredin as Sealed Evil in a Can since Amil is still using his actual body.
  • Holehallow in the Old Kingdom series may count as both this and a Derelict Graveyard.
  • The writings of Robert E. Howard are absolutely full of these. The creator and author of Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, and numerous other characters, Howard is considered by many to also be the creator of the Sword & Sorcery genre itself.
  • The writings of H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Along with Robert E. Howard, they were the "big three" contributing authors to Weird Tales, the classic pulp magazine.
  • The Crypt of Winterfell in A Song of Ice and Fire, catacombs under the castle in which the kings and lords of Stark are entombed and their likenesses set in stone. Traditionally it's just for the lords and kings, but Ned Stark took to entombing his brothers and sisters as well. The deepest depths of the crypts have not been detailed as of yet, and are the stuff of some legend (including the rumor that a Targaryen dragon once found its way down there and left a nest of eggs).
  • In Darkness Weaves Kane's hiding place is an old burial cavern on the side of a mountain full of such tombs. These became abandoned because of a new religion that introduces cremation and since they are believed to be ghoul-infested (not without reason), it is a perfect hiding place.
  • Subverted in the Village Tales series. Dukes and their baronial predecessors as well as poachers and farm laborers are buried decently in the churchyard, and all the memorial tablets and brasses and such are in the parish churches. There are plenty of barrows and ancient tombs dotting the landscapes – c'mon, it's Wiltshire – but these are objects of very little legend and of intense, mundane, scientific, properly conducted archaeological interest. As Professor Farnaby, Professor the Baroness Lacy, and their team will tell you between digs.
  • The Republic: According to the fable of the Ring of Gyges (as told to Socrates by Glaucon), Gyges started out as a shepherd of Lydia who, after an earthquake, discovered an entrance to a cavern where he found "among other marvels" the statue of a horse made of brass; the statue has a door and inside, there is a skeleton of more-than-human size with a gold ring on its finger. Gyges takes the ring, which turns out to be a magic ring with the power to make its wearer invisible. Obviously, the mysterious cave is a tomb.
  • It is reasonable to assume from the statue's nature in She Fell Among Thieves that the building she was found in was set up to be her tomb. It's an austere construction, but that's not surprising given what the circumstances must have been like when it was built.

    Live Action TV 
  • Farscape episode Taking the Stone takes place in the catacombs of a Royal Funeral Planet: though not inhabited by the undead, it has become home to a gang of thrillseeking teenagers.
  • Mystery Hunters has an episode where the hunters visit Tutankhamun's tomb and investigate if it is cursed.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Tomb" mostly takes place in one.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Dungeons & Dragons Tomb of Horrors setting, obviously.
    • Many Dungeons & Dragons campaigns or settings are going to feature at least a token Ancient Tomb or two and others will have far more than that. It's a staple of the game.
  • In the Grimdark 41st Millennium of Warhammer 40,000, you get all kinds of tombs: Gothically ornate catacombs of Imperial saints and nobles, strangely beautiful but often booby trapped Eldar soul shrines, massive memorials to legendary generals... And then you get mind-breaking citadels and catacombs dedicated to the most foul Chaos-aligned Evil Overlord in the system, always dangerous to those who value their lives and sanity, always haunted by daemonic energies and other horrible things.
  • Exalted has a number of these, mainly First Age deathtraps built to house the bodies of Solars slain during the Usurpation. In-character, they were constructed and laden with the grave goods of the dead in the hopes of keeping the restless spirits of the "Anathema" sated. Out-of-character, it's mainly a reason for newly returned Solars to evade death traps and get all the cool stuff they collected in their last life.
  • The World of Darkness has the tomb of Huitzilopochtli in Mexico as the site for the final showdown in one of its earliest series of adventures. The heroes' task is to find its location and get through the mortuary complex to the ancient master vampire's tomb before an enemy does, and absorbs his power for his own use.

    Theme Parks 
  • Busch Gardens Tampa used to have a walk-through attraction called Tut's Tomb, where guests would be guided through an excavation of said tomb.
  • The decrepit New Orleans funeral home from the haunted house Tombs of Terror from Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights 1997 is still being visited, but probably still counts considering the vampires and zombies present.

    Video Games 
  • Diablo:
    • The cathedral holds many free-standing stone coffins, many of which contain skeletons that will attack you.
    • There is an entire level called The Tomb of King Leoric, which is not particularly ancient, but is still crawling with skeletons.
  • In Diablo II, Act II, the desert around Lut Gholein has the Stony Tomb and the Halls of the Dead. In the last section of the act, you reach the Valley of the Magi, which is lined with tombs.
  • Diablo III has you revisiting the old ruins of the Tristram Cathedral, which includes its share of tombs, including the Crypt of the Skeleton King where you throw down with the resurrected title monster who is barring the path to the Fallen Star that takes up the first part of the game proper.
  • In Drakensang Online, the dungeon of Grimmagstone which is north of the starter town, fulfills this role. Complete with roaming undead.
  • The Catacombs in Dark Souls, which are crawling with necromancers and skeletons. It leads to the Tomb of Giants, which is home to Gravelord Nito, first of the dead.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • The series in general has more ancient tombs per square mile than you can shake a magic katana at. Some are well justified by the setting's lore, while others are simply generic dungeons closer to Ruins for Ruins' Sake.
    • Justified in Morrowind, where "ancestral tombs" for Vvardenfell's wealthier Dunmer families dot the island, typically guarded by summoned spirits and the reanimated dead. (The Dunmer consider this a holy act and very different from blasphemous [according to the Tribunal Temple] necromancy.) And of course, some of the tombs have been taken over by even worse creatures...
    • The barrows of Skyrim are also mostly justified. Most were built as the tomb/prisons for the members of the ancient Dragon Cults, who were overthrown thousands of years prior to the events of the game. With the return of Alduin, who is resurrecting the dragons themselves, the members of the Dragon Cult are likewise returning to (un)life. All of those overly simplistic puzzles in the barrows? They aren't to keep enterprising adventurers out, but to seal in the undead.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Final Fantasy XI has King Ranperre's Tomb, as well as the Eldieme Necropolis, which is inhabited by undead even during the Crystal War of 20 years ago.
    • Final Fantasy XII has several seeing as a key component of the plot involves salvaging artifacts from a dead king. the first in the long line is The Tomb of Raithwall. The most memorable and disturbing however is the Necrohol of Nabudis, which is actually an entire city turned tomb due an incident involving the same artifacts you're looking for.
  • Planescape: Torment has the Whispering Stone catacombs under Sigil. Naturally, this being Torment, the dead have formed a kind of necrocracy there.
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape has the Tomb of the Ancients.
  • Thief
    • Thief: The Dark Project has:
      • "Down in the Bonehoard". The entire mission is set in the Bonehoard, a gigantic underground tomb complex featuring lots of zombies.
      • "The Lost City" includes an Ancient Egyptian-style tomb (not actually from that civilization, though).
    • In the Thief II: The Metal Age mission "Eavesdropping", the seminary's catacombs contain some of the loot, and potentially a key that you will have to retrieve. Unfortunately, or not, they also contain Haunts.
  • The Warcraft games have the Tomb of Sargeras, where Sargeras' remains were hidden. It used to be in the underwater ruins of a city, but it was raised from the depths and is now an archipelago infested with demons.
  • La-Mulana has the Mausoleum of the Giants and the Graveyard of the Giants.
  • Both Jedi Academy and Knights of the Old Republic feature the Sith tombs on Korriban (see under Literature, above).
  • Hellgate: London has the five-level-deep Necropolis. It may or may not contain dead people (the probability is high that there'll be some form of undead or spirit,) but the graves at least are guaranteed features.
  • One of the exhibits in Shivers is dedicated to tombs and curses.
  • Assassin's Creed II has the Assassin Tombs (typically having larger structures like churches built around them) and the Auditore Family Crypt (which has no puzzles or guards but provides some interesting backstory). Brotherhood brings back the Crypt during the opening segment, where Desmond and Lucy go through the catacombs beneath modern Monteriggioni, including parts of the crypt, to get into the inner sanctum beneath the Villa Auditore.
  • Conquests of Camelot: The final stretch of the game takes place in a decrepit tomb filled with pestilent rats, greedy ghouls, and fatal dead ends.
  • All three Dungeon Siege games and their expansions feature ancient crypts as areas that must be traversed during the course of the game, some having two or three in one scenario. Dungeon Siege III, in particular, features the Heroes' Tomb, in which all of the recruitable characters from the original game are buried.
  • The final level of T'leth in X-COM: Terror from the Deep takes place in the crypt of the Great Dreamer.
  • In Dominions, some Magic Sites are Ancient Tombs. Also, one might be found in a random event, which can provide both gold and a magic item.
  • Practically all of Riddle of the Sphinx is spent poking around in a series of Ancient Tomb-related Egyptian ritual chambers, and there are Mesoamerican and Celtic tombs in the sequel (The Omega Stone) as well.
  • The second dungeon in Tales of Phantasia is an elaborate tomb, which also serves as a can for the Big Bad.
  • And let's just say that Tomb Raider is a Meaningful Name.
  • The 2012 update of Dwarf Fortress added elaborate burial tombs where sentient creatures born and died during world generation will be interred. It makes for excellent Dungeon Crawling in Adventure Mode, and a source for necromancers to summon their armies from in Fortress Mode.
  • In the city-building game Pharaoh, you build one of them. And then another. And yet another. It's really the point of the game, because pyramids are essentially just overtly huge ancient tombs.
  • Tomb of the Lost Queen is about Nancy and others investigating one.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games have the Ancient Tomb and the Explorer's Tomb
  • Torchlight II's 1st Act the crumbling brown stone type, Act 2 has the elaborately decorated and trapped type, and Act 3 has the sunken crypt types. Act 2 takes a break from the Sorting Algorithm of Evil to throw in the toughest Bonus Boss of the game.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: Mausoleums, catacombs, crypts and the Tomb of the Undying King.
  • Something Else: Kabu Katakomb is an Auto-Scrolling Level where Luigi has to dodge the Kabus and the bats. One section is underwater, which is difficult because Luigi is a slow swimmer and the scrolling speed is about the same is the scrolling speed of the land section.
  • Nexus Clash had the tomb of Maeval, the first Revenant and most powerful champion of the Nexal death god Hashaa. Even though Hashaa is the epitome of Dark Is Not Evil, Maeval embodies her most violent aspects and would gladly slaughter all but the best-prepared adventuring parties that intruded into his tomb.
  • In Ravensword: Shadowlands, the city of Aven secretly holds one that contains the titular Ravensword.

    Web Video 
  • High Rollers starts off with the party of adventurers waking up in an underground complex that turns out to be a very old elven temple where royalty was buried. Features Booby Traps (naturally), albeit most of them were disabled.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • In The Gods Are Bastards the freshmen stumble across one while on a field trip into the Golden Sea. Despite the fantasy setting and the tomb belonging to an infamous conqueror (with the unfortunate name of Horsebutt) the inside of the tomb is completely safe for the heroes.

    Western Animation 
  • Mumm-Ra in ThunderCats had a pyramid with four obelisks that shot impressive force lightning into the sky whenever he got angry. It also had a large slimepit for scrying and a good deal of horror - flying mummy bandages that wrapped themselves around his enemies, for example.
  • The Cave of Two Lovers in Avatar: The Last Airbender contains the vast tomb of Star-Crossed Lovers Oma and Shu, who are certainly ancient if their tale is accurate. Though several horror tropes are played with, the cave is ultimately not dangerous but romantic. If you don't mind the wolf-bats and badger-moles.
  • ReBoot had a game with this setting, part of a Shout-Out to The Mummy.

    Real Life 
  • Aside from many obviously real burial tombs, Pharaohs would actually circulate legends about their tombs being cursed to prevent grave robbing. In the long run, this did not work.
    • Indeed, most were raided by people who had been alive when the Pharaoh had died.
  • The tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi is still mostly unexplored; the site is contaminated with mercury (and according to legend it includes a massive model of his empire with the waterways made of liquid mercury). The most famous excavated part is the Terracotta Army, which was protected by still-functioning traps. According to the stories it was built by 700,000 men, which would make the work camp the biggest city in the world at the time.
  • The tomb of 14th Century Mongol warlord Timur the Lame is also subject of an alleged curse. During World War II, Soviet archaeologists exhumed him and it was said one of the inscriptions in his casket was "Whoever opens this tomb shall unleash a worse invader than I". Two days afterwards, Hitler invaded the USSR and when Timur was re-buried with a full Islamic ritual, the Soviets won the Battle of Stalingrad. Since then, a few superstitious people attribute Timur's curse for changing the course of World War II.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: