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Copy of a large lance used during plague epidemics in Marseilles, France in the 1600s

Plague epidemics ravaged Marseilles in France throughout the 1600s and 1700s. Lancets, such as the copy shown here, were used to open buboes in order to relieve pressure and also remove poisons from the body – an unsuccessful attempt to cure the patient. The lancet would have been stored in a brass case.

Object number:

A115570

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    Glossary: lance

    No description.

    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: plague

    An acute contagious fever with high levels of mortality. Both the 'Black Death' that swept Europe in the 1340s and the Great Plague of London in 1665 are believed to have been bubonic plague.

    Glossary: epidemic

    A sudden widespread occurance of an infection with high numbers of people affected.