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A Roman Cupping Vessel from Masada / כוס-רוח, כלי רפואי רומי, מחפירות מצדה

מלכה הרשקוביץ and M. Hershkovitz
Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies / ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה
Vol. כ‎, YIGAEL YADIN MEMORIAL VOLUME / ספר יגאל ידין‎ (1989 / תשמ"ט), pp. 275-277
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23621901
Page Count: 3
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Abstract

A large number of bronze vessels were found at Masada during the excavations of 1963—1965, directed by Prof. Y. Yadin. Among them was a unique vessel which came from Building 9, in the destruction layer of 73 CE. Inside the vessel were 6 shekels and 6 half-shekels, all of silver, which had melted as a result of the fire. The vessel (Reg. No. 365-329) was cast from bronze. It has an elongated mushroom shape, with an upper domed portion and a lower cylindrical portion. (Height 10 cm, maximum width 7.2 cm; diameter of lower body and mouth 4.2 cm). The rim is slightly thickened and out-turned. Originally a bell-shaped iron fitting with a bronze ring was attached to the top of the dome. Both were broken during subsequent treatment. This object can be identified as a Roman medical vessel, specifically a cupping vessel, known in Latin as a cucurbitula. Precise parallels are known from Germany, Corfu, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Cyprus. Until now, only one such vessel, from the Harvard excavations at Samaria, has been published from an excavation in Israel. Although the excavators did not identify it, both the description and the drawing leave no doubt that it is the same type of vessel. The method of extracting blood by the use of such a vessel was known in Greece as early as the 5th century BCE. In Roman times, cupping vessels are commonly found in tombs throughout the Empire, and are also illustrated on grave stelas. They were part of the regular equipment of physicians who accompanied the legions. We assume that the cupping vessel found at Masada originally belonged to a Roman physician and was taken as loot by one of the defenders of the fortress. The vessel, containing the valuable shekels, was hidden so that it would not fall into the hands of the Roman soldiers; instead it came into the hands of the excavator of Masada 1900 years later.

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