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Wood and shell trephine, England, 1900-1915

This trephine is an attempt to re-create pre-modern trephination, by making a trephine from materials readily available, such as wood and shell. Trephination may have been carried out from as early as 5000 BCE to drive out the evil spirits that were thought to cause illness. It is shown here with a piece of skull used in a trephination experiment (A651998.)

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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.