A barber-surgeon opens a vein in a woman's arm, another woman waits nearby with a bandage and a boy stands with a basin; a man seated at a table observes. In Europe in the 13th century a new type of craftsmen emerged in towns; the barber-surgeon. They cut hair, they pulled teeth and they performed simple operations such as amputations and setting broken bones and looking after soldiers during or after a battle. Bloodletting (or blood-letting) is the withdrawal of often little quantities of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be humors the proper balance of which maintained health, but it often weakened sick sick patients. It was the most common medical practice performed by doctors from antiquity up to the late 19th century, a time span of almost 2,000 years.
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