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 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Solomon Muto found the Millennium Puzzle in the tomb of the Pharaoh whose soul was contained within it. The tomb proved to have the traditional traps, but also had Shadow Magic guarding the Puzzle.

  • The foundations of Auguste Rodin's The Gates of Hell are two old tombs, representing that Hell is a land of death, the dead, and the ever-dying.

    Comic Books 

    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.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Avengers: Endgame, Rhodey and Nebula are left on Morag to retrieve the Power Stone, once Peter Quill shows up with its location. After knocking Peter out, they open the tomb where the Power Stone is stored. As Nebula starts to enter, Rhodey stops her and says that they have to worry about booby-traps, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nebula just shakes her head in disbelief and walk into the "Temple of the Power Stone."
  • In original Conan the Barbarian Conan finds the Atlantean Sword in an old tomb of an atlantean general.
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • The final battle in The Devil's Mirror takes place in the tomb of an ancient Emperor, which houses an invincible sword which the villainess is trying to get her hands on.
  • In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the title character primarily operates out of an Ancient Egyptian tomb.
  • Hellbound: The demon Prosatanos was sealed inside his own tomb in the Holy Land by King Richard the Lionheart. He is woken up centuries later by two tomb robbers.
  • The Indiana Jones series has several.
  • Obviously, The Mummy Trilogy features these settings.

  • The entrace to the titular Zaltec's tomb in The Return of Zaltec is right in the start of the game, although you can't figure out how to open it until later.

  • 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.
  • 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 and Sorcery genre itself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Mummy Monster Game: In Book 1, the game starts off in one, the tomb of Osiris, and the players later enter another where Osiris's head is being kept.
  • Holehallow in the Old Kingdom series may count as both this and a Derelict Graveyard.
  • 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.
  • 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). According to The World of Ice & Fire the Crypt was clearly the main focus of the original builders, with the actual keep the modern castle grew up around something of an afterthought; the in-universe author has no idea why.
  • Star Wars:
    • Korriban, the desert world, full of Sith tombs, Sith spirits, and living Sith busily using these things to learn new Sith abilities. Note that this is because Korriban is essentially Evil Space Egypt, as the first Sith Lords were exiled Dark Jedi who landed on Korriban and pretended to be the gods of the native Sith people, in the manner of pharaohs.
    • There's also the ziggurat-infested jungle of Yavin IV (as seen in the original film), former home of the Sith Lord Exar Kun, who imbued his spirit into the temples in a last-ditch attempt at self-preservation. Four thousand years later, most of them have calmed down enough to hold desperate rebels on the run from the law, but even then, there are some you don't want to go into.
    • In Galaxy of Fear, the planet Necropolis mostly runs to graveyards with garden-variety simple graves. However, the tomb of the Necromancer Sycorax is more to this trope.
  • 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.

    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 module is about a giant death-trap of a tomb constructed by a lich specifically to lure in adventurers whose souls he would harvest when they inevitably died to his many traps. The 5E module inspired by it, Tomb of Annihilation, has the players exploring the Tomb of the Nine Gods as the final third of the adventure, a giant death-trap of a tomb also built by a lich (in this case to store the moral remains of the nine Trickster Gods of Omu that he killed).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • HeroQuest: In a quest to find a valuable gem called The Star of The West, entering a room with a tomb will awaken the Witch Lord, a powerful enemy who can only be harmed with an ancient weapon known as the Spirit Blade.
  • 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 
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • 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.
    • Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey have you exploring some truly ancient tombs in Pharaonic Egyptian and Minoan/Mycenaean Greek flavors, though the layout and gameplay are functionally the same. These ones have First Civilization stelae in them that grant the protagonist a skill point each.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: Mausoleums, catacombs, crypts and the Tomb of the Undying King.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • In Drakensang Online, the dungeon of Grimmagstone which is north of the starter town, fulfills this role. Complete with roaming undead.
  • 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 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.
  • The final stage of Eternal Evil is set in the vampire lords' ancient mausoleum where you confront your vampire nemesis, Sefar. There's an ossuary and coffins containing skeletons you can uncover in the stage.
  • 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, that can only be opened from the outside? They aren't there to keep enterprising adventurers out; they're there to seal the undead in.
  • 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.
  • Forewarned: The game has up to four archaeologists exploring ancient Egyptian tombs where the Mejai are said to have been imprisoned. They have to explore them, collect lore, photographs, and artifacts, and escape before the Mejai inside kills them.
  • Several levels in Hands of Necromancy takes place in crypts and mausoleums, and at the exit you'll find a path that leads you to hell.
  • 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.
  • Horizon Forbidden West: Late in the game you find the bunker that Ted Farrow retreated to, which he styled after an Egyptian tomb. Inside are the bodies of the people he brought with him, some of whom he ended up murdering after they insulted his ego, the rest who decided to commit suicide rather than live any longer with him. You also find Ted himself, still alive as a mindless Meat Moss due to a failed experimental immortality treatment he received. The player never actually sees what he's turned into, but judging by everyone's reactions it's quite horrific.
  • Both Jedi Academy and Knights of the Old Republic feature the Sith tombs on Korriban (see under Literature, above).
  • Medal of Honor: Underground has the second level, appropriately titled "Among the Dead!" which is set in the Parisian catacombs. At one point you can even come across a ghost mook who disappears into thin air after being shot at! (A reference to the French Catacombs being haunted in real-life)
  • La-Mulana has the Mausoleum of the Giants and the Graveyard of the Giants.
  • 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 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.
  • Planescape: Torment has the Whispering Stone catacombs under Sigil. Naturally, this being Torment, the dead have formed a kind of necrocracy there.
  • In Ravensword: Shadowlands, the city of Aven secretly holds one that contains the titular Ravensword.
  • Rayman 2: The Great Escape has the Tomb of the Ancients.
  • 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.
  • One of the exhibits in Shivers (1995) is dedicated to tombs and curses.
  • 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.
  • The second dungeon in Tales of Phantasia is an elaborate tomb, which also serves as a can for the Big Bad.
  • 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.
  • And let's just say that Tomb Raider is a Meaningful Name.
  • 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 Superboss of the game.
  • 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.
  • The final level of T'leth in X-COM: Terror from the Deep takes place in the crypt of the Great Dreamer.


    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.

    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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Sonic Underground had one. The triplets' ancestors' puramid made of metal and glass. Og course, it even has traps.
  • 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.

    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.