The two bowls shown here are for two very different uses and illustrate the range of the Barber Surgeon’s work on board the Tudor ship, The Mary Rose. He cut hair, shaved and performed simple surgery.
Medical theory was based on the “humours”. It believed that the body was made up of four humours or liquids. They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile. If a person had too much of one humour they fell ill. For instance if a person had a fever he must have too much blood. The treatment was to cut the patient and let him bleed. The two-handled bowl was used to catch the blood.
The other bowl with the indentation is for shaving and is designed to fit around the neck and under the chin of a man being shaved. It would hold soap and warm water. This bowl has a 5 litre capacity and is made of brass.
The velvet coif, or bonnet found in the barber surgeon's cabin suggests that he was a Master Surgeon of the Guild of Barber Surgeons. He would have been granted his licence to practise after a 7-9 year apprenticeship and after passing an examination. Unfortunately, the identity of the barber surgeon on the Mary Rose in 1545 is lost in archives that have not survived.
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