Sunday, January 31, 2010

The First Swiss Army Knife

Special thanks to Josh for calling this great tool to my attention!

This could very well be the world's first Swiss Army Knife. Bearing a striking resemblance to modern multi-tools, it has at least six distinct functions and originates from the Roman Empire circa 200 A.D.

If our multi-tools today, with their screwdrivers, pliers, and the rest, center on fixing things, this Roman predecessor is more useful for enjoying the pleasures of food. The tool includes a spike which historians think was used to snag snails out of their shells. A hook-like spatula is thought to have helped coax sauce out of the bottle.

Of course, the device also includes a fork, spoon, and knife for mealtime, as well as a toothpick to clean up your grill afterward. Amazingly, all of these tools appear to fold into the handle to keep everything compact, just like Swiss Army Knives and Leatherman multi-tools we use today.

The tool was found in the Mediterranean area nearly twenty years ago, so technically it's not Swiss at all, and it predates the modern Swiss Army Knife, invented in 1897, by nearly 1,800 years.

This very old gadget is currently being exhibited as part of a collection of Greek and Roman artifacts at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. [Daily Mail]

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