Brief History Of The Spoon
There is plenty of evidence that the people of very early times concentrated along the borders of the sea and large bodies of water. The shores of these waters provided shells which served as natural spoons with which to eat certain types of food. These were available long before man knew how to fashion metal into weapons or implements. Stone knives were made at a very early time, but they were fairly clumsy and apparently were used for hunting rather than eating. This was true even long after metal was employed. Spoons have been found as relics from the table dating from a period long before knives and forks began to appear. Therefore, we may conclude that the spoon was the first of these implements to be used for eating purposes.
Upper Left: Ancient Egyptian ivory spoon with shallow round bowl and short handle.
To make shells more convenient, wooden or bone handles were attached. These produced an implement very much like the spoon of today. During many periods, metal spoons have been produced representing the bowl of a shell.
Above: Examples of ancient Egyptian wooden spoons.
Very early spoons are found made of wood. This was a natural development from using a flat or hollowed splinter of wood for eating purposes. Some very fine spoons carved of slate, wood and ivory have been preserved as relics from ancientEgypt. By comparing them with other works of Egyptian art, it would seem that they date well back into Egyptian civilization.
Above: Left Ancient Egyptian spoon made of slate. Right Figural spoon in the form of a fish. There is a small cavity underneath used as a salt container.
In some parts of the world, bronze and gold were being used to make spoons. Stone, wood and other materials were employed in other sections. Some of the earliest specimens found represent works of art. The use of the spoon was so prevalent that it appears to have been known to practically all of the civilized world.
There seems to be no point in following the spoon all the way through the ages and observing its many forms and variations because of the fact that we have not departed far from the original design. There is one variation of interest that might be mentioned, and that is the folding spoon used around 1400 A.D. At that time, people carried their eating utensils with them, and the 1400 model was made to fit the pocket conveniently. Later, when forks came into use, some combination forks and spoons were made.
Even the very wealthy did not attempt to provide spoons for their guests as a common practice, but a few of the royalty and nobility did have sufficient silverware to provide for guests. For a long time spoons were practically the only implements represented.
Below: Left 17th century combination spoon, fork and toothpick. Right Parts of the combination spoon, fork and toothpick. It was made to fold and carry in the pocket. The 3-tined fork fit into loops at the back of the bowl, and the toothpick screwed into the handle.
During the Tudor and Stuart reigns, a fashionable gift at Christenings was the Apostle spoon (shown at left). A complete set of twelve silver Apostle spoons was indeed a very valuable gift. Sometimes a thirteenth spoon was added, called the “Master” spoon because it bore the figure of Christ. Spoons of copper, pewter or brass were used by folks of limited means.
The earliest American-made spoons followed closely the style of the English spoon because the early New England colonists brought examples of these with them. Modifications of these early spoons naturally followed.
More ancient spoon images:
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