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Bloodletting cupping set with brass scarificator – 19th century

 Dating back to 1000 years B.C. in Egypt, bloodletting was a common practice used to cure people of illness. Initially, medical treatment was thought to be centered on the balance of the four “humors,” blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Illness occurred when one of these four “humors” was out of balance.  It was believed that by bleeding a person these “humors” would be restored. The bloodletting cupping set pictured here was one method used by physicians to bleed a patient. The glass cups were placed on the patients’ skin and the brass syringe was attached to the cups to produce suction causing the blood to rise to the surface.  Once the skin became red and swollen the cup was removed, the skin was pierced by a scarificator (spring loaded lancet) and the blood was withdrawn.  The square brass scarificator shown consists of 16 small blades that were released by pulling back the lever on the top of the box. As the years passed, bloodletting became less prevalent as a treatment for all illnesses and finally fell out of popular practice by the end of the 19th century.

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