Death By Molten Gold and Lead

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[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.

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[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.

Bottom image and video clip from HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Via Smithsonian.com for the full fascinating (albeit grisly) article.

This entry was posted in Geekery, History, Messed Up by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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