4 Medieval Torture Techniques That Will Make You Glad You Live In The Modern Age

17th-century thumbscrew, Märkisches Museum Berlin. (Anagoria/Wikimedia Commons)


It's not known exactly when the thumbscrew was first invented, but historians have traced documentation describing the device back to the 1500s and suspect it originated within the Russian army, where it may have been used to discipline unruly soldiers or deserters. Although not a fatal device, the thumbscrew was effective for all its simplicity. The torturer placed the victim's fingers between the metal screws and then turned them, slowly crushing the victims thumbs, often to the point of breaking. It was popular because it created immense pain with relatively little bodily damage.