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This is a little bit gruesome.

In my world there's a tribe of aborigenal humans in pluvial biomes, extremely efficient hunters. In a traditional rite of passage, the chieftain gets their throat slowly cut by the next-in-line successor (the strongest warrior) with a knife made out of a canine of a great ape. The chieftain metaphorically "passes the torch" in a gruesome and "poetic" way: they die because of the cut only after 10-30 minutes.

How do they cut a person's throat, but make sure they stay alive for 10-30 minutes?

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    $\begingroup$ Question: Why the need to stay alive for 10-30 minutes and why the need to do it with a throat cut? Getting a slow cut and being stoic in the face of Death - I get that. A Cut to the throat - I get that. Bleeding to death for 10-30 minutes, I get some reasons for that - but what I don't get is why the need for all of them combined. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2023 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord It's a gruesome and poetic statement that fits their surroundings. It's a horrific practice that resembles the dangers of the forests they live in, and it makes an example out of the chieftain, the guide of the tribe. Even the strongest in the group will face death at some point of their lives, therefore everybody should live accordingly. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ If they are hunters, the heart has a deeper meaning. stabbing the heart, with a blade with a hollow or channel in it (maybe carved and truly ceremonial), where you can control the flow of blood would possibly solve some of your issues, and allows more control. Cutting the throat to bleed out has others symbol meanings of course $\endgroup$
    – JoSSte
    Apr 4, 2023 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ The death of Seneca the Younger comes to mind, from the ceremonial point of view. Seneca cut several of his veins in order to comply with Nero’s request to kill himself. However, it is not stated where he cut himself. However, I am at a loss with the "cutting the throat and dying slowly" part. $\endgroup$
    – Dohn Joe
    Apr 4, 2023 at 11:41

4 Answers 4

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a 1-1.5cm deep cut along the side of the neck

There are 6 major veins and 6 major arteries in your neck. Cutting any one of these can cause you to bleed out rather quickly, but which one, how many, and what position you are in when it is cut makes a huge difference. If you wish to prolong bleed out, it is better to cut one and only one of the veins. Veins will work better than an artery because arteries are under higher blood pressure meaning that a bleeding artery will slow down less in an ideal position.

Also, many of the veins and arteries are so close together that that it is hard to cut only one if cutting along the front of the neck, but along the side of your neck there is a muscle that runs between your interior and exterior jugular veins such that a cut about 1-1.5cm deep along the side of the neck should fully sever the exterior vein, but not cut into the interior vein or the arteries. This allows you to make a hole big enough in the one vessel that it will not be able to just clot shut, but leaves the other 11 blood major vessels intact so that you still have most of your blood flow.

Lastly, the most important factor is body position. As long as you are standing upright, and not moving around too much, you will bleed out much more slowly than if you are lying down. So, it will be best to bind the old ruler in an upright position. Tying him to a post or cross or something should help. If your old chieftain is allowed to fall, or lie down, he will bleed out ~10 times as fast as if he is kept upright.

While I can not find exact data on a cut to the EJV, according to this an IJV wound can take up to 30 minutes to bleed out if the person is kept up right; so I suspect an EJV should be about the same +/- 10 minutes. The only reason I suggest an EJV instead of an IJV wound which I have more exact data on is because the OP has asked for a cut and not a stab. The IJV is virtually impossible to cut without also cutting the Cortaid Artery due to its position. This would require a very precise stab as opposed to a cut to isolate it.

Minor frame challenge: You need a faster cut or longer blade

While we think that slow means more control, when it comes to cutting flesh, faster is often better, especially with a primitive knife like one made from a tooth. This is because a fast cut will cut through all tissues more or less the same, but when you cut slowly, all the different layers of skin and muscle and connective tissues all behave differently. Things will pull or squish instead of cutting, and instead of some Hollywood dramatic slow motion slice, what you will instead find yourself doing is sawing, stabbing, and ripping at the chieftain's neck in a much more painful and violent way... and while a willing person can sit still for a single swift cut, no one is just going to sit still for something like this.

If you use a long and sharp knife you can get away with a slightly slower cut because you can get "speed" from drawing the blade across the flesh. This is in large part why Kosher rules are so strict about the length, shape, and sharpness of the knife you use for slaughtering animals... but if there is already an established significant for the ape tooth, then a single quick slash would be the only really plausible option for you. The limited length, rather than slowness of the blade can give you control over the depth of the cut since the handle can prevent you from cutting deep enough to cut more than you mean too.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. Giving your specifics about body position, and the poultice suggested by @Daron, the old chieftain may be seated, while the successor first cuts the jugular vein, then applies the poultice, and embraces the chieftain, guiding them to death. Also this is very disturbing, I'll think about this later on. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ @lollo259 The poultice should be unnecessary and the pressure it applies may actually help seal the wound anyway. You will still bleed out from a fully severed jugular vein even if it takes 30 minutes. Without pressure on the wound, a large cut can not clot properly. Worst case scenario, slightly moving the victim's head will reopen the wound even if it does successfully clot. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 3, 2023 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ Reading your edits, I will change it to a quick slash, because the ape tooth is fundamental. Also, the tooth is basically a chimpanzee canine but double its size. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 21:37
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Frame Challenge... sort of...

I was going to put this into the comments, but as I wrote it, it grew to an answer:

I get the Gruesome, I get the Poetic, I get the constant reminder that Death is ever waiting. I think the focus on the Time elapsed is missing the point.

The test of the Chieftain is that they face Death without fear, they face their killer without malice and they are willing to suffer and die without complaint so that the Tribe lives on.

How I would do the ritual:

Have the new Chieftain slowly impale the old Chieftain through the neck with the ritual blade (The canine tooth). Essentially piercing the carotid artery.

With the blade still in the wound, the Chieftain (now fatally wounded) is able to live - this is pretty common in stabbings - if the blade is still in the wound, it plugs the wound and limits the amount of bleeding so long as it doesn't move around.

This is where you could have your 10-30 minutes - possibility here for:

  • Songs to be Sung
  • Eulogies for the Chieftain to be said
  • Other symbolic acts.

Then, once these have been done - the Chieftain pulls the blade out of their own neck and hands it to the new Chieftain - the giving of the blade is the symbolic transfer of power and leadership. It's also both voluntary (they do it themselves) but also by giving it to the new Chieftain it's a forgiving act - it shows there's no hatred - it is the way of all things in the Jungle.

Once the blade is removed - the old Chieftain will quickly succumb to the wounds.

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    $\begingroup$ An excellent ritual. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Apr 4, 2023 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ I'm definitely adding songs to the mix. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 4, 2023 at 8:36
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Prepare a poultice soaked in a potion made from the saliva of the swamp leech and vampire bat. These contain anticoagulants to stop the blood clotting and allow it to flow freely. Make a small incision in one of the jugular veins. Wrap the poultice around the wound tightly enough so the blood comes out at a dribble. The hard part is not accidentally strangling the victim with the poultice.

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  • $\begingroup$ @lollo259 On Worldbuilder SE, we normally prefer that you wait 24-hours to accept an answer since it is very common that the best answer will not be the first one you get that might fit. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki I'm sorry, thank you for the feedback. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Daron Thank you. Considering that they'll need to loose approximately 50% of their blood to die (and they have more than 3 liters of blood), they'll die in around 15 minutes if a dribble=0.003 liters. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:31
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A quick death by throat slicing requires a much more skilled hand to be performed than simply inflicting a prolonged and painful agony.

You might be too young to know first hand, but in the post 9-11 and the subsequent attempt to "export freedom" in Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been many videos of western prisoners being beheaded by terrorists holding them as hostages.

In most of these videos the entire ordeal was all but a clean and quick process, be it for the lack of cooperation from the victim or for the poor skills of those using the blade.

A skilled hunter will surely know how to make it quick or slow.

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    $\begingroup$ If you are seriously looking for instructions on how to slowly slice somebody's throat you are in the wrong place. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 3, 2023 at 11:33
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    $\begingroup$ It's obviously related to my worldbuilding project, since I have to explain that particular technique. I don't think there's a specific rule for not asking this particular questions. I don't want to incite violence of any sort. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ @lollo259 for worldbuilding purposes you need to know if it is possible, in the same way that for worldbuilding purposes you may need to know how much damage a nuclear weapon of a certain yield will do. You don't need to know an exact technique to make someone slowly bleed out any more than you need to know the exact technique to construct a nuclear weapon, both can be glossed over in text. Describing the feelings of the victim, perpetrator and/or onlookers can be done without explicit details. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2023 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 since this is a worldbuilding site for very specific questions, I may need to know how to explain the specific technique. For instance, I specify exactly how the humans in my world make leather, instead of simply saying that they make leather. I'm currently focusing on the details, at least for the humans inhabiting the planet. $\endgroup$
    – lollo259
    Apr 3, 2023 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki, there is a difference between saying "it can be done" (which is the point of my answer) and saying "this is how you do it, do A, B and C", which I am not willing to put in an answer. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 3, 2023 at 18:22

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