Exposing the Spectacular Body: The Wheel, Hanging, Impaling, Placarding, and Crucifixion in the Ancient World

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This dissertation brings the Ancient Near Eastern practice of the wheel, hanging, impaling, placarding, and crucifixion (WHIPC) into the scholarship of crucifixion, which has been too dominated by the Greek and Roman practice. WHIPC can be defined as the exposure of a body via affixing, by any means, to a structure, wooden or otherwise, for public display (Chapter 2). Linguistic analysis of relevant sources in several languages (including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian, Hebrew, Hittite, Old Persian, all phases of ancient Greek, and Latin) shows that because of imprecise terminology, any realistic definition of WHIPC must be broad (Chapter 3). Using methodologies ... continued below

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Foust, Kristan Ewin December 2017.

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  • Foust, Kristan Ewin

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Description

This dissertation brings the Ancient Near Eastern practice of the wheel, hanging, impaling, placarding, and crucifixion (WHIPC) into the scholarship of crucifixion, which has been too dominated by the Greek and Roman practice. WHIPC can be defined as the exposure of a body via affixing, by any means, to a structure, wooden or otherwise, for public display (Chapter 2). Linguistic analysis of relevant sources in several languages (including Egyptian hieroglyphics, Sumerian, Hebrew, Hittite, Old Persian, all phases of ancient Greek, and Latin) shows that because of imprecise terminology, any realistic definition of WHIPC must be broad (Chapter 3). Using methodologies and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from art history, archaeology, linguistic analysis, and digital humanities, this work analyzes scattered but abundant evidence to piece together theories about who was crucified, when, how, where, and why. The dissertation proves that WHIPC records, written and visual, were kept for three primary functions: to advertise power, to punish and deter, and to perform magical rituals or fulfill religious obligations. Manifestations of these three functions come through WHIPC in mythology (see especially Chapter 4), trophies (Chapter 5), spectacles, propaganda, political commentary, executions, corrective torture, behavior modification or prevention, donative sacrifices, scapegoat offerings, curses, and healing rituals. WHIPC also served as a mode of human and animal sacrifice (Chapter 6). Regarding the treatment of the body, several examples reveal cultural contexts for nudity and bone-breaking, which often accompanied WHIPC (Chapter 7). In the frequent instances where burial was forbidden a second penalty, played out in the afterlife, was intended. Contrary to some modern assertions, implementation of crucifixion was not limited by gender or status (Chapter 8). WHIPC often occurred along roads or on hills and mountains, or in in liminal spaces such as doorways, cliffs, city gates, and city walls (Chapter 9). From the Sumerians to the Romans, exposing and displaying the bodies consistently functioned as a display of power, punishment and prevention of undesirable behavior, and held religious and magical significance. Exposure punishments have been pervasive and global since the beginning of recorded time, and indeed, this treatment of the body is still practiced today. It seems no culture has escaped this form of physical abuse.

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  • December 2017

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  • Jan. 27, 2018, 7:36 a.m.

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Foust, Kristan Ewin. Exposing the Spectacular Body: The Wheel, Hanging, Impaling, Placarding, and Crucifixion in the Ancient World, dissertation, December 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1062805/: accessed May 28, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .