[I]n season one [of HBO’s Game of Thrones], a character was killed by having molten gold poured over his head. Centuries ago, having molten gold poured down your throat was actually the preferred means of death by molten metal.
Marcus Lincinius Crassus, an astoundingly wealthy Roman general, is rumored to have died this way. Spanish inquisitors used this technique and so did tribes in South America—as one corrupt, gold-loving Spanish governor found out in 1599.
[J]ust what killed the victim? Was it the hot gold itself, the steam, perhaps suffocation? [A] 2003 study in the Journal of Clinical Pathology decided to find out.
“We obtained a bovine larynx from a local slaughter house (no animal was harmed or killed specifically for this purpose). After fixing the larynx in a horizontal position to a piece of wood and closing the distal end using tissue paper, 750 g of pure lead (around 450°C) was heated until melting and then poured into the larynx.”
After the lead and larynx cooled down, the experimenters examined the larynx by taking cross-sections and looking at them under a light microscope.
Having molten lead or gold poured down your throat might rupture your organs, burn your lungs and choke you. Ultimately, though, it’s probably the steam that pulls the plug.