50 Gravely Serious Facts about Tombs & Crypts

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1 Roman Dog Tombs

Roman Dog Tombs

The Romans were known to create tombs for their dogs and gave them epitaphs to remember them by. One such inscription reads, “I am in tears, while carrying you to your last resting place as much as I rejoiced when bringing you home with my own hands 15 years ago.”

2. According to one legend, the funeral escort of Genghis Khan killed anyone and anything that crossed their path in order to conceal where he was finally buried. After the construction of his tomb was completed, the slaves who built it were massacred, and then the soldiers who killed them were also killed.

3. Blue faience hippopotamus statuettes were popular in ancient Egypt, but only around 50–60 of them have survived. The ancient Egyptians believed that hippos evoked chaotic forces because of the danger they pose to humans in the wild. This is why they often snapped off the legs of the hippo statuettes before placing them in tombs, so that they wouldn’t eat the soul of the deceased.

4. The US Capitol Building was designed to house George Washington’s tomb on public display. Both houses passed a resolution in 1799 calling for him to be entombed there, and his wife too consented to this, but due to various delays, it took until 1830 for this plan to become viable. The same year, an attempt was made to steal George Washington’s skull from his tomb at Mount Vernon. The thief, however, mistakenly stole the skull of Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington. After this theft, plans for Washington to be entombed at the Capitol were cancelled.

5. The tomb of St. Nicholas in Italy excretes a liquid called “manna.” For hundreds of years now, the manna has been collected by the Church, mixed with holy water, and bottled in small glass vials decorated with icons of the saint for sale to pilgrims.

6 Alexander’s Tomb

Alexander's Tomb

The location of the tomb of Alexander the Great has been lost to time. Alexander was entombed in Alexandria, and his tomb was subsequently visited by many pilgrims throughout history, including Caesar. Many of the Roman emperors who visited his tomb left with souvenirs, effectively looting the monument. His tomb was well visited up until the 1500s, when its location was suddenly forgotten.

7. Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of the few Egyptian tombs that have been discovered to be nearly intact and complete. The tombs of all other pharaohs were looted at some point in history. Although his tomb was robbed twice in antiquity, the unbroken seal on the tomb’s door remained untouched for more than 3200 years.

8. Lenin’s dead body is bathed and dressed in new clothes every year. His tomb is located in the centre of Moscow and is open to the public, despite his death wish to be buried next to his wife.

9. The long-lost tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra from 30 B.C. has remained undiscovered to this day. But as of November 22, 2022, archaeologists have just found a 4,300-foot-long tunnel under an ancient temple in Egypt. They think this tunnel could lead to Cleopatra’s long-lost tomb.

10. In 1983, a man in Perugia, Italy, was digging a plot in his backyard for a vegetable garden and accidentally ended up discovering an Etruscan tomb that’s been dated to be more than 2000 years old.

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11 Iron Age Tombs

Iron Age Tombs

Trained sniffer dogs are helping archaeologists in Croatia discover 3,000-year-old Iron Age tombs. Experts have said that using dogs is a good way to identify archaeological sites, as it is less destructive than many traditional methods.

12. In 2007, construction workers in the Chinese city of Nanjing discovered multiple ancient tombs dating back at least 1800 years. The tombs might have been those of a wealthy family of the period, as the workmanship was of high quality. The tombs were then destroyed by excavation machines and bulldozers to build an Ikea over the site.

13. Slaves didn’t build the pyramids of Egypt. They were laborers who were respected for their work and were bestowed with the honor of being buried in tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaohs.

14. In 1965, an excavation team discovered the Sword of Goujian in a tomb in Hubei, China. It was encased in an airtight wooden box next to a skeleton. The sword is over 2500 years old, but it was in such perfect condition that tests affirmed the blade could easily cut a stack of 20 pieces of paper.

15. The tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, remains untouched and unexplored to this day. This is due to the fact that it is buried deep underground and may also be surrounded by a moat of poisonous mercury and still-functioning booby traps. Modern tests have found that the amount of mercury in the soil is more than 100 times what it should be.

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16 Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna

Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna

The Mausoleum of Theodoric in Ravenna, Italy, was built in 520 A.D. with stones sourced from a quarry in Istria, approximately 400 km (249 miles) away by land. The mausoleum’s roof consists of a single piece of Istrian carved stone 10 metres (33 feet) in diameter and weighing 230 tons.

17. “Exploding caskets” are a big problem in a lot of mausoleums. The process of a human body decaying builds up gases that can cause a literal explosion and knock down the marble front of a crypt.

18. Boatswain (1803–1808) was Lord Byron’s beloved Newfoundland dog. When he contracted rabies, Byron personally nursed him despite the risk. After he died, Byron wrote the poem “Epitaph to a Dog” in his honor. His wish to be buried with Boatswain was denied, and the dog’s tomb is larger than that of Byron’s.

19. When William the Conqueror died, his funeral was delayed for several days. Then the stone sarcophagus made for him was found to be too short, so they tried to force his bloated corpse in, but his “swollen bowels burst, and an intolerable stench assailed the nostrils of the bystanders and the whole crowd.”

20. Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was a French soldier who was taken as a POW and fed only potatoes during his captivity and survived. Feeling like he should have died, he made it his life’s mission to convince the world of the nutritional value of potatoes, and his tomb in France is to this day regularly decorated with potatoes as a tribute.

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21 Tomb of Psusennes I

Tomb of Psusennes I

The only Egyptian pharaonic tomb to have been discovered completely intact is that of Psusennes I (1047–1001 BC). Psusennes I’s outer and middle sarcophagi had been recycled from previous burials in the Valley of the Kings through the state-sanctioned tomb robbing that was a common practise in the Third Intermediate Period.

22. In 2007, while excavating for a new building in Central London, archaeologists discovered the unmarked, isolated remains of a teenage Roman girl. She was later reburied on the same spot with full Roman burial rites. A Latin inscription on her tomb remembers her as the “Unknown Roman Girl.”

23. The oldest bottle of wine, known as Römerwein or the Speyer wine bottle, is at least 1650 years old. It dates back to the 4th century, sometime between 325 and 359 A.D. The 1.5-liter glass vessel was discovered during the excavation of a Roman nobleman’s tomb in modern-day Germany.

24. In 2010, archaeologists in China found a surprising haul in one tomb. They uncovered a bronze cooking pot, and when they opened it, they found 2,400-year-old bone soup. Because of oxidation, the soup turned green, but it was still in liquid form, and the bones were still floating on top.

25. Constantine V of the Byzantine Empire (741–775) was so loved for his ability as a general that following the defeat of the Byzantine army by the Bulgarians at the battle of Pliska in 811, a group of soldiers broke into his tomb and begged his corpse to come back and lead them again.

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