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Posts Tagged ‘Gibbet Symbols’

Official sites of execution – prisons, military bases, etc. – are found in parts of the semi-civilized world where capital punishment is still practiced (shown in red on the map below).

Alas, these sites where we kill people so people stop killing people (and other assorted reasons) are not typically symbolized on modern maps. I guess this is one of the ways we Lie With Maps.

A nice summary of capital punishment around the world can be found at Wikipedia.  For those of you keeping score at home, Capital Punishment UK keeps a tidy list of the most recent executions around the world. For last month (September ’08), it looks like the US is in first place.  Go USA!

There are many ways to execute people, including burning, boiling to death, breaking wheel, burial, crucifixion, crushing, decapitation, dehydration, devouring by animals, disembowelment, dismemberment, drawing and quartering, drowning, electrocution, explosives, flaying, garrote, gassing, guillotine, hanging, impalement, lethal injection, marooning, nitrogen asphyxiation, poisoning, pendulum blade, sawing, scaphism, shooting, slow slicing, snake pit, stabbing, starvation, stoning, thrown from a height, tearing apart by horses, and venomous stings.

There don’t seem to be map symbols for many of these methods, but there are a few historical examples hanging around out there, mostly for gibbets and gallows.

Francois de Dainville, in his Le Language des Geographes (1964, pp. 301-302) compiled map symbols from historical European maps (1550-1771) showing different ways to symbolize gibbets and gallows and other curious structures for execution by hanging. The text below the symbols (in the graphic at the top of this post) indicates the historical maps the symbols were taken from.

The 1795 edition of a New Map of Hampshire by John Lodge includes a small gallows symbol:

John Rocque’s map of London, Westminster and Southwark (1746) includes a symbol for the Tyburn gallows and the location “Where Soldiers are Shot”:

Valerie Kivelson illustrated an execution map symbol in her book The Cartographies of Tsardom (2006).

In this case the map is Russian, from the 17th century, by the Russian cartographer Semen Remezov.  The historical context is Russian Imperial expansion into Siberia in earlier centuries.

Kivelson writes

In his History Remezov approvingly describes how one of Ermak’s lieutenants pacified the natives of the Nazym District by attacking settlements, capturing their strongest men, hanging them from gallows by one leg, and then shooting them.  The scene is illustrated in the History and captured Remezov’s imagination so much that he inscribed the tiny image of a man hanging by one leg in several of his maps, literally mapping the violence of imperial conquest onto the landscape.

Remezov illustrated the scene in his Kratkaia Sibirskaia Letopis:

Have a nice day!

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