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Cranial trephine with two bits, Europe, 1601-1800

The instrument was used in trephination, the drilling of a hole through the skull bone. Known as a trephine, this example has two bits which can be attached to the drill in order to create holes of different sizes and types in the skull. The device is not unlike the hand-powered brace and bit drill commonly used by carpenters.

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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.