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Brace and bit cranial trephine, Germany, 1701-1800

The instrument was used in trephination, the drilling of a hole through the skull bone. The blade creates a circular hole when the brace is turned, much like a standard carpenter’s brace and bit drill. The ornate decoration is typical of 1700s design and unfortunately such features provided a good environment in which germs could thrive. The inscription reads “Eberle”, a surgical instrument maker working in Germany at this time.

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    Glossary: trephine

    An instrument for trepanning, being an historical advancement on the trepan. It is a circular or cylindrical saw, with a handle like that of a gimlet, and a little sharp perforator called the center pin.

    Glossary: trephination

    The removal of a circular piece of the top of the head. This is done using a sharp implement or circular saw, and was common in Neolithic times. It is thought that the aim was to release evil demons or spirits from the body in the hope this would cure the person of their illness.