So what is this object that we showed you in the Sunday, June 11th issue of the RVtravel.com newsletter?
It’s a Bloodletting Bowl from Massachusetts in the 1600s. We found it at the Plimoth-Patuxet Museum in Plymouth, at the location of a re-creation of the permanent settlement of the Pilgrims who landed at nearby Plymouth Rock in 1620.
In those days and through the 1800s, people believed that illnesses were caused by an imbalance of the four humors, or fluids, that made up the body. If you had too much blood, one way to bring someone back “into balance” was to remove some of their blood and collect it in a bowl like this. Bloodletting Bowls, sometimes called Bleeding Bowls, were common. This one is very primitive. Some that came later could be elegant like the one below.
Such bowls were used by doctors, but also by barbers. In addition to cutting hair and shaving, barbers also pulled teeth and provided bloodletting services. The red stripe on a barber pole you still see today represents blood.
In almost every situation bloodletting would not have helped the patient. Removing too much blood can be dangerous for a healthy person and especially deadly for someone who is already sick. That being said, there are a couple rare situations in which bloodletting and leeches are still used in modern medicine.
Are there any other procedures we do today that involve removing blood from a patient? Blood test? Donating blood? We still draw blood today, but for different reasons than the Pilgrims 400 years ago.