Monday, February 1, 2010

A Roman MacGyver Knife/Spork

All accomplished with a Swiss Army Knife and Duct Tape.

I have always carried a pocket knife of some sort and, over the years, I have found the Swiss Army Knife to be the most useful. My good friend Eric calls this my "MacGyver knife." I never was much of a Richard Dean Anderson fan and the series' plots often strained credulity to the endangerment of suspended disbelief. Still the knife IS useful. I like tools that are multi-useful (see my praxis on the spork).

But when TypeAy fowarded this to me, I was amazed.


Inspired: The Roman army pen knife, a precursor to today's popular Swiss Army accessory

The Roman Army Knife: Or how the ingenuity of the Swiss was beaten by 1,800 years

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 9:07 AM on 30th January 2010

The world's first Swiss Army knife' has been revealed - made 1,800 years before its modern counterpart.

An intricately designed Roman implement, which dates back to 200AD, it is made from silver but has an iron blade.

It features a spoon, fork as well as a retractable spike, spatula and small tooth-pick.

Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat from snails.

The Roman army pen knife

It is thought the spatula would have offered a means of poking cooking sauce out of narrow-necked bottles.

The 3in x 6in (8cm x 15cm) knife was excavated from the Mediterranean area more than 20 years ago and was obtained by the museum in 1991.

The unique item is among dozens of artefacts exhibited in a newly refurbished Greek and Roman antiquities gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge.

Experts believe it may have been carried by a wealthy traveller, who will have had the item custom made.

A spokesman said: 'This was probably made between AD 200 and AD 300, when the Roman empire was a great imperial power.

The knife is on display at the Greek and Roman antiquities gallery at Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum.

'The expansion of Rome - which, before 500 BC, had just been a small central Italian state - made some individuals, perhaps like our knife-owner, personally very wealthy.

'This could have been directly from the fruits of conquests, or indirectly, from the 'business opportunities' the empire offered.

'We know almost nothing about the person who owned this ingenious knife, but perhaps he was one of those who profited from the vast expansion of Rome - he would have been wealthy to have such a real luxury item.

'Perhaps he was a traveller, who required a practical compound utensil like this on his journeys.'

The spokesman added: 'While many less elaborate folding knives survive in bronze, this one's complexity and the fact that it is made of silver suggest it is a luxury item.

'Perhaps a useful gadget for a wealthy traveller.'

Modern Swiss Army knives originated in Ibach Schwyz, Switzerland, in 1897 and were created by Karl Elsener.

The knives which provide soldiers with a 'battlefield toolkit' have since become standard issue for many modern day fighting forces thanks to their toughness and quality.

Nationalist Elsener decided to design the knives after he realised the Swiss army were being issued with blades manufactured in neighbouring Germany.

Other popular artefacts include an intricately designed Greek make-up box which was custom made almost 3000 years ago for a women of 'wealth and status'.

The round clay make-up container from Athens dates back to 740BC and experts believe it may have been stored in a grave in the Ancient Greek city for the last 2,700 years.

The six inch high and 12 inch diameter box would have contained precious gems and make up from the era made from a variety of naturally occurring substances.


Sean said...

Stopped carrying a Swiss Army knife years ago, they just don't hold up, and they fall apart from use. I like them, except they don't last.

rustynail said...

I've carried a Swiss Army Knife (usually a Victorinox Huntsman or Climber) for over 30 years (not the same one, however). I guess I've found a use for most every blade. I even cut down a Christmas tree with a 3" trunk once using the saw blade. Equally important, Victorinox has a great warranty. In the past they have replaced knives that lost their scales and given me reduced prices for replacement knives when I broke a blade tip and reground it to repair the damage. If you have a damaged knife, go to a store that carries them and get the address from the package. Or search for the web site.


Anonymous said...

Incredible. Of course, those togas must have had some deep pockets!
But I had no idea such things even existed back then!! Thanks for sharing this intriguing little piece of history!
Having been raised with a shiny Barlow always in one pocket, and having spent a few years making knives, I never see a need for anyone to be without one. I carry the old Swiss military issue (the silver scaled 'Boy Scout' knife) when I can, a slim lockblade when less bulk is needed, and generally a RAT Izula or similar, close at hand. But alas... no spoon!!
- j -

suek said...

"Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat from snails."

Could have been used as a hoof pick. Horses sometimes pick up rocks and stuff in their feet in the part of the hoof between the frog (a relatively soft tissue in the center back of the foot) and the hard sole, which can cause temporary (or permanent, depending on what the item is) lameness. You can't remove things well with your fingers - it requires a tool of some sort. It's questionable whether you'd want it on a tool also used for eating - but it would work.

Kurt '45superman' Hofmann said...

I like the Russian Army version.

Anonymous said...

"Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat from snails."

Ex: former / outmoded / out of date
(S)purt: drip of water under pressure

45superman - Good one; as Patton was quoted in his movie as saying: "I'll drink to that."

The Knights Templar were exorcised from the body Roman Catholic for their heretical beliefs in the Occult - hidden knowledge known only to a few select. They were also the bankers of the West and when they were disbanded many went to Switzerland noted now a days as a banking center and the birthplace of the Swiss Army Knife. This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the Templars of old and their descendents of today knew of and used these ancient devices made out of precious metals not only for their only comfort, but as talismans to help identify each other and root out imposters - hence the obvious torture instruments for cutting flesh, poking out eyes, and other dastardly infernal processes. An imposter would not know of such an instrument and would thus be quickly ferreted out; while a member of the select would have their own ready at hand in a hidden pocket or slung on a golden chain. One can easily imagine the conversations focused on these instruments that have over centuries shaped the hidden psyche and culture of the members of this group: 'The gold inlay came from the teeth of a Lebanese banker in 1222'; 'Passed down to me by my grandfather who added the diamond crest in 1943 from the cache of an Austria bishop who fled to Switzerland.'; 'Oh, is that Dushan Jade?'

Let this serve as an example of the triumph of Sherlockian logical thinking which can deduce the truth from the slimmest of evidence - a capability of most importance for III-Pers in today's Machiavellian world.

BTW: notice the 'curlicues' on the sides in the middle of the device. Obviously these were bottle cap openers, which leads us to deduce that Sparkling Wine and Champagne were routinely part of the wealthy's travel inventory centuries ago. Another case of suppressed technology hidden from the masses - 'What! And have those filthy sweaty smelly commoners put their horrid beer in my bottles? Never, I say, Never!'


Spring Assisted Knives said...

I currently carry a Kershaw leek, but a mutli tool is not a bad idea to carry. i can see how useful the tool will be through out a typical day.

Happy D said...

Usually I just assume the Chinese invented an equivalent of everything first.
Or Qi Ji Guang do you know of an older Chinese equivalent?

patrick henry said...

@MBV: Thanks for sharing this awesome bit of history!

@45superman: Rarely do I literally spit=take, but you got me.

As a chronic abuser of various "milsurp" equipment, I expected your link to go to a "cheaperthandirt" or similar site.

As I said - You got me.

Well played!!