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Human skull showing different methods of trephination, Canary Islands, 1871-1930

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This skull shows four different instruments used for trephination. The instruments include a shark’s tooth, a flint-pointed bow drill, a flint scraper and obsidian – a naturally occurring volcanic glass. Each instrument makes a different type and size of hole. This skull was owned by Dr Thomas Wilson Parry (1866-1945), an English doctor who did extensive practical research into Neolithic trephination instruments and techniques.

Object number:

A652218

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Glossary:

Glossary: human remains

term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

Glossary: skull

The skeleton of the head of a vertebrate animal, including the brain case, or cranium, and the bones and cartilages of the face and mouth. The skull can be subdivided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. The human skull is made up from 22 bones.

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.