29 May 2014

"Death by wheel"

Earlier this week I mentioned that "rabies is near the bottom of my list of preferred ways to die."  Here's something that ranks even lower.
Last October, archaeologists surveying the site of planned road work on federal highway 189 in Groß Pankow, Brandenburg, Germany, unearthed human remains... Further examination revealed the deceased was a man in his mid to late 30s who had been executed on the wheel. His bones are in more than a thousand pieces. This is the first time a skeleton of someone broken on the wheel has been found in Germany, even though judicial execution by wheel was employed in the Holy Roman Empire from the Middle Ages to the 19th century...

Death by wheel was usually a two-stage process. First a large spoked wagon wheel would be slammed onto the large bones of the arms and legs, breaking them in two places each. Then the wheel would strike the spine, breaking it. With the body’s skeletal structure in pieces, the condemned was then tied to the wheel, his limbs woven in and out of the spokes. Finally the wheel was raised on a pike and planted into the ground...
Further details at The History Blog.


  1. Good lord, how cruel and strange, but interesting. These are things that I read your blog for. Not your everyday stuff.

  2. Who comes up with this kind of thing? Can you imagine some guy going, "I tell you what we're gonna do. We are gonna take that wagon wheel, smash his arms and legs and back, then run him through the spokes and hang him up in the air!" And...horribly...others went, "That is a GREAT idea!"

  3. A common (though somewhat old-fashioned) expression in Dutch to refer to a dysfunctional youngster is they "will grow up for gallows and wheel", the latter referring to this specific torture device.

  4. "Ich fühle mich wie gerädert" - "I feel like I have been wheeled" is a quite common German phrase; used by someone who feels very tired, exhausted, or sick.

  5. For more information on this and related subjects may I recommend Geoffrey Abbott's book "Execution". A very disturbing but nevertheless interesting read...


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