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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
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Object:Flat trepanning chisel, Florentine, 1601-1700


picture zoom related ingenious images © Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library

Surgical instrument from the Rossi collection used for a surgical procedure called trepannng or trephination. Trepanning is an ancient operation in which a hole is drilled, chiselled or cut into the skull. In the eighteenth century it was carried out, for example, to treat serious skull fractures. Trephination as a therapeutic or magico-religious procedure dates back to Neolithic times, with trephines (or 'trepans') often used as a method of releasing evil spirits from the patient. Over the centuries, this surgical procedure continued to be used to treat a variety of symptoms, from migraine to mental illness.

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