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Brass scarificator with twelve blades, Europe, 1801-1900

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Scarificators were used in bloodletting, a once popular treatment prescribed for a range of medical conditions, usually in combination with cupping. This brass device has twelve lancets operated by a spring released trigger. Skill was needed to make sure that the blade did not cut too deep into the body. Once the skin was cut, a special rounded glass cup could be applied over the wound. When warmed, it would help draw the blood out at a faster rate. The scarificator was introduced in the late 1600s, but they reached the peak of their sophistication and usage in the 1800s.

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Glossary: lancets

A surgical instrument of various forms, commonly sharp-pointed and two-edged. The lancet is used in venesection (the act of opening a vein for bloodletting), and in opening abscesses.

Glossary: scarificator

A surgical instrument with several spring-operated lancets, used to break the skin.

Glossary: bloodletting

Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.