Ancient Egyptian Grave Robbers

Only pharaohs were buried in pyramids or big tombs. When a pharaoh was buried, all his belongings and wealth were buried with him for him to enjoy in the afterlife.

As pyramids could be seen for miles around, it was very easy for grave robbers to know where they could steal expensive goods from.

To stop robbers from breaking into pyramids and stealing the wealth, the pharaohs hired security to guard their tombs for long after their deaths.

The pyramid architects also tried to trap the robbers in the tombs by making it like a maze!

  • False entrances to the tomb were placed around the pyramid, alongside the one real entrance, to trick the robbers.
  • False doors and passages inside the pyramid lead to rooms which were empty, filled with rubble or had other traps in them.
  • Multiple passages were built so the robbers would be lost inside the pyramid for a long time.
  • Fake doors were made which opened to a blank wall behind it.
  • Doors were built of very heavy granite so the robbers had to be strong and put a lot of effort into opening them.
  • The room containing the coffin and wealth was built a long way from the entrance to make it very hard to get to.

Even if the robbers stole the goods from the tomb, they would have to find their way out of the pyramid again, navigating through the crazy maze of passages built throughout the pyramid.

People thought that this would slow the robbers down enough that security would catch them when they finally made their way out. Unfortunately, almost all the tombs were broken into and the treasures stolen.

When grave robbers stole from a tomb, they often broke the name plate on the coffin (cartouche) or took amulets. They also tore the wrappings off the mumy to find any goods hidden inside them.

The ancient Egyptians believed that by damaging your cartouche and body, you could not reach the afterlife. People thought that your soul (Ba and Ka) travelled around the living world watching over your family and also enjoyed the afterlife during the day.

At night, the Ba and Ka would try to return home to the tomb but, without the cartouche, they would get lost. This would stop them from getting to the afterlife.

If grave robbers got caught, they faced a long, gruesome death as punishment. Ancient Egyptians thought that not only were robbers stealing your goods, but also your chance at eternal happiness in the afterlife. Therefore, grave robbing was one of the most serious crimes possible in ancient Egypt.

Facts about Ancient Egyptian Grave Robbers

  • Grave robbers targeted pyramids because they were easy to see and pharaohs had very expensive treasures in their coffins.
  • Pharaohs hired security to guard their tombs after they died.
  • Architects built fake doors, passages and traps into the pyramids to confuse robbers.
  • Architects made it hard to leave the tomb, so security was more likely to catch them.
  • Robbers often broke the cartouche and the mummy’s wrappings when stealing.
  • The cartouche and the preserved body were needed for the soul reach the afterlife.
  • If the mummy and cartouche were damaged, the soul could not get home or to the afterlife.
  • Grave robbing was one of the most serious crimes in ancient Egypt.


  • Why did grave robbers target pyramids?
    Pharaohs were buried in pyramids with lots of wealth and the pyramids were very easy to see.
  • What sort of traps did the architects put into a pyramid?
    Fake entrances and doorways; passages leading to nowhere; rooms of rubble; mazes of passages; very heavy doors.
  • What helped you reach the afterlife?
    A name plate on your coffin (cartouche) or on an amulet and a well preserved body.
  • Why was grave robbing such a terrible crime?
    Robbers destroyed the cartouche and mummy, stopping you from reaching the afterlife.