Indirect Evidence of Hanging

Lesions of Traumatic Violence in Eighteenth-Century Execution Victims From Southwest Germany

Authored by: Joachim Wahl , Carola Berszin

The Routledge Handbook of the Bioarchaeology of Human Conflict

Print publication date:  November  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415842198
eBook ISBN: 9781315883366
Adobe ISBN: 9781134677979


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Among the manifold capital punishments administered in the Middle Ages, hanging was one of the most frequently employed, especially for use with lower-class victims. A number of offences were punishable by death by hanging, in particular theft (Köbler 1988: 181; Kaspers 1965; Ruoff 1912: 95–6; Barring 1980; Bonte and Pieper 1995), burglary and aggravated robbery and, occasionally, incest and treason (Schild 1997: 197; Hinckeldey 1980: 129). Furthermore, murderous arsonists and coin counterfeiters and, sometimes, female murderers could expect this type of punishment. Death by hanging was for the most part used as a punishment for males. Women were usually not publicly tortured and hanging was even more unusual. In cases of offences deserving of death, women were more likely to be buried alive or bound and drowned. Pregnancy was frequently regarded as reason for a lesser punishment (Hinckeldey 1980: 108; Schuster 2000: 220–2; Schild 1997: 197). A document written in connection with the sentencing of two women to death by hanging in the year 1584 mentions the fact that this punishment had not occurred previously (Schuster 2000: 223). Hanging was considered dishonorable and shameful, and was used most commonly for the condemned of the lower social classes or foreigners (Auler 2010; Schild 1997: 42; Schuster 2000: 220–4).

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