17 practices that prove our ancestors were nutcases

George C By George C, 28th Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1_-_heol/
Posted in Wikinut>Humour>Off Beat

It is common for people, particularly the elderly to regard periods in history as being the best times in terms of morality and happiness. However, a closer look reveals not-so dandy doings.

17 practices that prove our ancestors were nutcases

It is common for people, particularly the elderly to regard periods in history as being the best times in terms of morality and happiness. However, a closer look reveals not-so dandy doings. Many social commentaries dissecting nuances of the past tend to cast a rosy picture. This is in part due to various forms of boorishness and social ineptitude experienced in recent times. No matter how much we wish we had lived in the same period as our ancestors, the fact remains the same – we probably would’ve regretted it bigtime.

17. Brushing teeth with urine

Ancient Romans discovered an ingenious way to whiten their teeth by using the liquid by-product secreted by the kidneys. Back in the day, it was common for people to run around with a urine-soaked grin. The insane reality was that the unglamorous practice actually worked. Using urine to get a whiter smile was considered the stuff of legends.

16. Dead mouse paste

Folks in ancient Egypt had a solution for toothache that seemed worse than the pain itself. They made a paste from the remains of a dead mouse (1). In some variants, dead mouse was mashed with a cocktail of other ingredients. The sufferer was expected to apply the disgusting mash onto the troublesome tooth as if it were some ordinary toothpaste. Mouse paste was also applied as a remedy for warts in Elizabethan England. As if this were not enough, the Elizabethans found fried or baked mice pies irresistible (eeww!).

15. Foot binding

Humans have always displayed a keen sense of style. It is in this vein that Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century) made foot-binding mandatory for all girls as a standard of beauty and elegance. However, this weird practice came at a price. The girls had to endure a painful process that restricted the growth of feet. Luckily, the practice was outlawed in 1912. Girls and women would have still been running around in odd-looking feet.

14. Use of the spiked torture chair

Ever imagined sitting on a spike riddled iron chair for hours or days; the nightmarish experience was real for many that lived in the Middle Ages. The chairs came in different variants, but all served the same wicked purpose – causing untold pain and suffering. Condemned individuals had to contend with between 500 to 1,500 spikes. They punctured the back, buttocks, wrists and legs. The torturers ensured that victims could not escape by tying them, thus exacerbating the pain. Some variants came with holes that allowed the torturer to place hot coal underneath to cause burns.

13. Use of Mercury for medical purposes

The clever folks who lived during the early sixteenth century CE identified mercury in its compound form as a pioneering medical discovery (2). Patients received a dose of the world's most dangerous elemental toxins to treat a variety of ailments, including syphilis. Mercury compounds like corrosive sublimate (HgCl2), mercury sulfide compounds (HgS) and calomel (Hg2Cl2) became hot commodities in Europe and Asia. This followed learned proclamations by a revered physician, alchemist, astrologer, botanist and general occultist – Paracelsus. The Swiss-German whose real name was Auroleus Phillipus Theostratus Bombastus von Hohenheim helped transform European and Asian pharmacopoeias. This is despite the liquid’s dreadful side effects, including psychotic reactions, delirium, heart and lung problems, coughing and chest pains. Paracelsus was certain that the dose makes the poison.

12. Burning a bunch of cats for recreational purposes

Cats that lived in France prior to the 1800s experienced the darker side of humans in a gut-wrenching fashion. Insane captors gathered the poor felines for a repulsive form of zoosadistic entertainment. A cat-filled net, basket, barrel, or sack was hoisted high in the air and lit to form a fiery hell. Many people associated the animals with witchcraft and it was common for kings to attend such events and assist in lighting the bonfires. In many cases, there weren’t enough felines, so the residents would grab a bunch of foxes and bring them to the party.

11. Engaging in brutal sports

Some sporting codes introduced in the past were not exactly a gentleman’s game, they were startlingly brutal. Some like pankration (a violent blend of boxing and wrestling) enforced some rules but athletes fought in the nude (exposing them to dangerous foul play). German Viking Warriors engaged in a horrific version of tug-of-war pitting two teams that battled over a fire pit. The losing side paid dearly by falling into the fire leaving their wives and worldly possessions to the victors. Folks in ancient Egypt also took bizarre sporting codes to the next level. They jovially rowed into the Nile and pounded the hell out of each other with oars. The recreational activity known as Fisherman’s joust attracted the attention of crocodiles escalating the risk levels.

10. Barbaric criminal justice that boiled people alive

In Europe and Asia, anyone found guilty of poisoning was executed by being boiled alive (3). Hordes of onlookers attended the executions, carried out in a sealed kettle or a cauldron. Various types of liquids were used, including tallow, water or oil. The executioner plunged the victim (head first) using the hook and pulley system.

9. Artificial head flattening

After hundreds of millions of years of evolution, the human physical form became esthetically pleasing. Yet, for reasons known only to the Chinookan people, they invented the practice of artificial head flattening. The clever folks subjected their perfectly formed infants to contraption techniques designed to flatten the poor babies’ foreheads. The result was a messed-up Stone Age look that would’ve made any Neanderthal so proud.

8. Ducking women into the pond or river for gossiping

Women who lived in the 1800s risked being ducked if they dared spread gossip. This form of punishment was prevalent in England where it was later extended to children accused of being lazy.

7. Branding people with red-hot irons

This form of punishment was a hot favorite of the criminal justice system in Britain, Rome, Russia and France. The convicts bore the infamous decorations on cheeks and forehead, later on the arms and back. In one case, Englishman James Nayler, a Quaker was branded with a highly visible “B” on his forehead for claiming to be the Messiah (4). The letter “B” stood for blasphemer. Vagabonds and Gypsies were branded with a huge “V” on the breast, while brawlers got an unconcealed “F” for fraymaker. It was common for judges to order criminals to raise their hands in court to verify previous convictions. Army deserters earned themselves a decorative “D” etched by tattooing with gunpowder or ink.

6. Forcing suspects to plead guilty by pressing them with weights

In England, the act of pleading not guilty attracted unusually hard times for suspects. The authorities employed admit or die tactics - criminals remained obstinate at their own peril. A wooden board and heavy iron weights or stones were placed on their bodies. These extreme measures aimed at securing a guilty plea involved the gradual addition of stones or weights to the point of crushing a determined suspect to death. This shows just how lucky we are to be living in a civilized world where plea bargains, the right to a fair trial and appeals exist. To imagine being subjected to the weight of heavy stones for something one probably did not do is beyond scary.

5. Treating impotence using electricity

Men have been looking for wonder solutions to fix their underperforming members since time immemorial. Many crazy ideas have popped from all directions. However, none comes close to the electric belt, which was billed as a device capable of restoring male prowess. The stimulating pieces tapped into the shocking power of electricity.

4. Blowing smoke into rectum for medical purposes

The statement “blowing smoke up your someone’s rectum” used as a figure of speech nowadays had a literal meaning in the early days (5). Medical practitioners regularly blew smoke into their patients’ rectums as a means to resuscitate them. This miraculous practice certainly sends shivers up the spine of anyone born in the 21st century. However, this creepy procedure made the difference between life and death for drowning victims or anyone presumed dead. It was common for the rectum blowing equipment to be placed along major waterways like the River Thames. The old-school devices can be likened to modern defibrillators. Doctors were convinced that the nicotine in the tobacco functioned as a stimulant to hasten heartbeat. This is in addition to aiding the removal of excessive moisture.

3. Getting black teeth due to the love of sugar

Queen Elizabeth I chose to sacrifice her teeth for her love of sugary foods. Her majesty’s teeth rot and turned black (6). As if the practice was fashionable, the majority of the aristocracy happily followed the queen’s example by making their teeth black too.

2. Using lobotomy to cure mental abnormalities

In the 1940s, lobotomy was billed as a cure-all solution for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Its uses extended to moody teenage children or women. If a husband thought his wife was being unreasonable by not performing housework, he would resort to the popular fad. During its time as a mainstream procedure, up to 70,000 people were lobotomized (7). Its inventor became a Nobel Prize recipient in 1949. This form of psychosurgery involved cutting or slicing of the anterior part of the brain’s frontal lobes. Fortunately, the procedure was later scrapped because it negatively affected personality and intellect.

1. Hemiglossectomy

Stuttering is an oral defect that many people would want to correct. However, doctors in the 18th and 19th centuries had a frightening solution - cutting off part of the stutter's tongue (8). The unlucky patients had to bear with mind numbing pain or bleed to death. The suffering was ultimately for nothing since the procedure never actually worked.

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author avatar Sherri Granato
29th Apr 2015 (#)

Ya think? These are some real beauties. Thanks for the laugh, and the eye opener.

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author avatar Zahna Klaver
29th Apr 2015 (#)

What about writing articles for strangers to read and comment on for fractions of a penny? Great list!

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author avatar Onlydog
16th May 2015 (#)

A very interer history lesson, congratulations

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