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Death By Impalement

15 February 2010

Presented by post on the blog because Joshua couldn’t be in class to present the material himself.

Death by Impalement

  • Who uses (used) it – which national or cultural groups

Impalement was used in the early civilizations of the Ancient Near East, ancient Rome, and frequently in the middle ages in Asia and Europe.  It was used particularly in the Ottoman Empire, Poland, Sweden, and South Africa (Zulu tribes). Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) and Ivan the Terrible (Russian) are the most infamous users of impalement.

  • Is it in use anywhere in the world today? If not, when was it a major form of execution?

Its use is very uncommon if not nonexistent anywhere today.  It was a major form of execution in ancient civilizations through the 18th century or so.

  • Was it used very often, or was it rare?

This method of punishment was used often during the time period in which it was popular.

  • How did it work? About how long did it take?

“Impalement as a method of torture and execution involves a person being pierced with a long stake. The penetration could be through the sides, through the rectum, through the vagina, or through the mouth. This method leads to a painful death, sometimes taking days. The stake would often be planted in the ground, leaving the impaled person suspended to die.

In some forms of impalement, the stake would be inserted so as to avoid immediate death, and would function as a plug to prevent blood loss. After preparation of the victim, perhaps including public torture and rape, the victim was stripped and an incision was made in the perineum between the genitals and rectum. A stout pole with a blunt end was inserted. A blunt end would push vital organs to the side, greatly slowing death.

The pole would often come out of the body at the top of the sternum and be placed against the lower jaw so that the victim would not slide farther down the pole. Often, the victim was hoisted into the air after partial impalement. Gravity and the victim’s own struggles would cause them to slide down the pole.”

Depending on the position of the stake, this method could be a very slow excruciating death. It could often take days for death to occur if major organs were not pierced.

  • Why was this method developed?

This method was developed for several reasons. Some of these reasons include shock value, extreme pain on part of victim, materials available (i.e. wooden stakes), and its profound message to the public.

  • If this method is not used much any more, why not?  What problems were found with it?

This method would be considered barbaric by today’s standards.  Not only is it incredibly inhumane in the sense of incredible pain and denial of human dignity, but it is a wholly gruesome spectacle to behold. Therefore people in most cultures would not like to witness or partake in impalement.


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