The most common method of death by crushing was through the use of elephants. This practice was ubiquitous throughout South and South-East Asia for over 4,000 years of recorded history, and perhaps before that. The Romans and Carthaginians also used this method on occasion. Please see crushing by elephants.
Throughout history, other forms of crushing have also been used. Pressing by weights is perhaps the most common of these. During the Salem Witch Trials, Giles Cory refused to enter a plea, and was pressed to death on September 19, 1692 in an attempt to get him to do so. In this form of torture the condemned had heavy weights placed upon him (usually large stones): death, when it occurred, was by suffocation or internal injuries.
There have also been some peculiar forms of death by crushing to receive official sanction from a ruler or governing body, both involving women as the executioners. This last fact is quite odd, because throughout history the use of women to carry out executions is exceedingly rare.
The first of these methods was designed to inflict extreme humiliation, and was practiced in the 19th century by the Watusi tribe of Africa. For centuries, the Watusi had been mortal enemies with the Pygmies as they shared attached and disputed lands. By coincidence the Watusi are the tallest people on earth, with many of the men standing over seven feet tall, while the Pygmies are the shortest people on earth, with full grown men often less than 4 feet in height.
The method of death by crushing in this instance involved the extreme humiliation of captured Pygmy warriors. The prisoner would be stripped of all his weapons and clothing, bound with ropes, and then thrown into a large, stone-floored pit that was filled with waiting Watusi women. The very tall women would then proceed, as a group, to trample heavily upon the small man, crushing him to death beneath their feet. This was considered to be extremely humiliating owing to the fact that the warrior was losing his life at the hands of women, and also because he was being treated to a death fit more for an insect than a man. Many Pygmies who showed no fear in battle dreaded the possibility of such a death, indicating that the method apparently had the desired affect.
But perhaps the most bizarre form of death by crushing was put into practice by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din of Malwa (1469-1500). (Malwa was a kingdom in northern India.) Apparently in an effort to satisfy an erotic urge toward violence, the Sultan had a very large wooden platform (approx. 20' x 20') built of two layers that could be parted, the upper layer sliding freely above its lower partner on vertical rails placed about the circumference of the platform.
The condemned would be placed on his back, on top of the lower platform directly in its center, while the upper platform was lowered on its rails, eventually coming down onto him and causing him to be under its full weight. The weight of the upper platform was insufficient to crush the condemned (est. 600 pounds), but was heavy enough to pin him firmly in place.
At this point, the Sultan would have women from his harem enter. Then, one by one, each woman would step up onto the upper platform and take her place upon it. An opening was cut in the upper platform for the condemned's head, so that he would not die quickly from a crushed skull, and also so that he would have to watch helplessly as the women gathered around him and their weight on his body grew ever heavier.
Although the Sultan's harem was comprised of 6,000 beautiful women, it is estimated that only about 150 women could have squeezed their way onto such a platform at one time. This is probably why the Sultan chose the tallest among his harem as executioners; so as to provide the most weight. One hundred and fifty tall women would weigh nearly eleven tons. This would explain reports of executions that described the two platform layers, to the accompaniment of the screams and cracking bones of the condemned, as coming together so tightly as to leave no discernable space between them.
The Sultan had drawings made of the uncrushed heads of his victims, and kept them as a treasured collection. Many depected the effect of the women's weight, showing the victims with entrails protruding from their mouths or eyeballs burst from their sockets.
It should be noted that fantasies of death, or vicarious death, by crushing are a feature of a paraphilia that is common enough to support a sub-genere of "trampling pornography." This might have been a motivation for the Sultan's actions.