Biblical Archaeology Review 40:3, May/June 2014

Strata: What Is It?

A. Medical instrument

B. Cooking pot lid

C. Hanging light fixture

D. Musical instrument

E. Byzantine Christmas ornament

Answer: (A) Medical instrument

Vessels like this small, hollow, bell-shaped cup from Israel were used for the medical treatment of cupping. The earliest records of the practice of cupping—placing heated cups on the skin to improve blood flow—were found in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medical document dating to 1500 B.C.E., and the Greek physician Hippocrates’s corpus of medical texts in 400 B.C.E. Archaeologists have also uncovered cupping vessels in China from 1000 B.C.E. Vessels used for cupping were made from a variety of materials, including bronze, horn, pottery and bamboo, and were typically shaped as balls or bells with diameters of 1 to 3 inches.

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