Since ancient times, many civilizations have used execution as a means of punishment and control. Often justified, but just as often not so, the methods have ranged from cruel and bizarre, to painless and dignified. One of the earliest and most widely used the world over was the simple beheading. Using an blade, club, the executioner quickly separated, or crushed, the head and life from the body. The guillotine was created for this purpose, and to be mercifully quick, and efficient. Its efficiency was made evident during the French Revolution when over 40,000 people met their end by the device.
Another famous early form of execution is hanging, recorded even in the Bible, yet still used today. Yet another, not quite as common until later in history, was burning the accused alive, often from the feet up while tied to a pole or tree. The Salem Witch Trials in 18th century Massachusetts warped the line between execution and murder, when hundreds of women, young and old, where falsely accused and condemned of being witches, through paranoia and impossible trials. The famous method of choice for their disposal was burning at the stake. The European Middle Ages are known for their knights and damsels, kings and castles and the dark devilish disposal of criminals. Beheading was still common in the kings courts, and burning at the stake, and hanging. But other methods, often accompanied by torture, were a little more original. The Breaking Wheel, which took days to die from, is a classic example. In modern times execution “advanced”.
With the invention of the gun came a new method commonly used in war time, the firing squad . Many variations of it existed, but they had the same basic principle. With the harnessing and experimentation of electricity, its potential to kill on command was soon realized, and thus the Electric Chair was born, and commonly used in prisons for many decades. Two others soon appeared along side it, the gas chamber, and lethal injection. Out of those, lethal injection is the one still used today in America. Consisting of a system of injected chemicals, the condemned is put into a sleep they will never wake from. From the dawn of man until now, death has provided the surest form of punishment, be it just or unjust.
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