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Lancet, Iran, 1701-1800

The lancet in the foreground of the image has a large metal blade measuring 65 mm long. Lancets were used in bloodletting – a once popular universal treatment for a range of health problems. The high degree of decoration on the instruments, all from the same set, suggests that they probably belonged to a physician serving a wealthy family. It is shown here with other instruments from the same set (A642946/3, A642946/6, A642946/9).

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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: 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.