Islamic cupping glas, 1000-1400.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The provenance of this vesel is unknown. Cupping was an ancient therapy intended to restore the balance of the body's humours. It remained popular in the Western world until the 19th century. The physician burnt pieces of rag in the cupping vesel, creating a partial vacuum that made the vesel stick to the body surface by suction. This raised a weal on the skin (dry cupping) or, if done over deliberate cuts, drew out blood (wet cupping).