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I remember reading about this as a form of ancient torture, but I am unable to find evidence that is suggestive of that.

I did however find on this wikipedia page

uses a heavy chain to tie a cauldron to her stomach, then shoved rats under the rim of the pot. He put hot coals on the top, causing the rats to claw at Cara to try and get away from the rising temperature inside the pot

Is there any evidence that a rat will actually eat/burrow through flesh if it is placed on a person with hot coals surrounding an encapsulating "pot"?

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The version of this that I have heard and seen in film involved the rat burrowing through the person to escape the heat. Not necessarily eating through. –  Origami Robot Jun 10 '11 at 3:24
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"as a form of ancient torture". Not exactly a thorough reference, but near the end of Orwell's '1984' (in the Room 101 scene) he references rats eating humans as an ancient Chinese (I think it was Chinese, correct me if I'm wrong :) torture –  Nate Koppenhaver Jun 10 '11 at 3:35
    
@OrigamiRobot, thanks, I missed that form of reasoning. –  picakhu Jun 10 '11 at 4:56
    
heard/read that the Vietnamese and Japanese used similar methods as a ways of torture in WW2 and the Vietnam war. Don't know how much of that's horror stories made up after the wars or as propaganda though, it's very hard to distinguis such things as there's of course little or no photographic evidence and a sack or pot could have been used for anything. –  jwenting Jun 10 '11 at 6:48
    
@Nate As I recall, in Orwell's 1984 the torture involved a cage being placed around the head with a door separating the victim's face from the hungry vermin. The torturer remarked on the efficiency of the rodents in burrowing the face and the likely result. –  Paul Apr 11 '12 at 10:37
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During the Red Terror, the Cheka reputedly used a method similar to this as torture, involving placing rats in heated metal tubes held against a prisoner. This is detailed in The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, by George Leggett as referenced on this Wikipedia page (warning: this page contains a photograph of a mass grave).

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