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In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway.
As punishments for scolds
The dunking stool, rather than being fixed in position by the river or pond, could be mounted on wheels to allow the convicted woman to be paraded through the streets before punishment was carried out. Another method of dunking was to use the tumbrel, which consisted of a chair on two wheels with two long shafts fixed to the axles. This would be pushed into the dunking pond and the shafts would be released, tipping the chair up backwards and dunking the occupant.
In its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the U.S. Department of State formally recognizes "submersion of the head in water" as torture in its examination of Tunisia's poor human rights record.
- Alice Morse Earle (1896). "The Dunking Stool". Curious Punishments of Bygone Days. http://www.getchwood.com/punishments/curious/chapter-2.html. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
- "Dunking". Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th Ed. ed.). London: Cambridge University Press. 1911. http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Dunking. Retrieved 18 January 2007.
- U.S. Department of State (2005). "Tunisia". Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61700.htm.