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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course The Story of Phlebotomy: A Historical Perspective. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Picture on a vase from ancient Greece depicting bloodletting

The Ancient World

Bloodletting is perhaps one of the earliest medical procedures. Early detailed descriptions of bloodletting can be found in the ancient Ayurvedic medical writings (3300-1300 BCE). Its use as a therapeutic regimen was practiced by ancient peoples in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Roman Empire, Arab countries, India, and Japan. However, bloodletting to relieve pain and treat disease may have had an even earlier origin during the stone age. There is evidence that the practice was in use in China during this prehistoric period using stone knives and other non-metal sharp tools. Archeological evidence points to the custom of bloodletting by the Mayan Indians, but its use may have been limited to ritualistic purposes. Nevertheless, the use of phlebotomy or bloodletting for medicinal purposes has not been without controversy. The literature even in ancient times contained numerous discourses both condemning and supporting the practice.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons