Knife HistoryThe first knives in human history were prehistoric hunting knives made from flint. As the Stone Age passed into the Bronze and Iron Ages, knife materials changed from flint to bronze to iron, but the purpose of the knife remained the same. The knife was an all-purpose tool, used for hunting, warfare, and domestic tasks. Until modern times, knife history was really a history of human civilization.
Knife History in the Middle AgesHumanity's kinship with tools ensured that even after agrarian civilization developed, the knife retained an important role in society. Cutlery - something that is now taken for granted - was practically nonexistent in Europe during the Middle Ages. Thus began the domestication of the knife.
Belt sheaths were common in the Middle Ages, and the knives they held were used for many purposes other than eating. But once at table, the knife was used essentially like a fork. It was a tool for spearing food, not merely cutting food. In much of Europe, the knife didn't give way to the fork until the 17th Century, and in some countries, even later.
This transition to forks resulted in a new kind of knife. Knife points were rounded off and blunted, and knife designs were created for the gestures of eating rather than the gestures of hunting.
Knife History Around the WorldThe evolution of knife design was also affected by the needs of particular peoples and countries. A survey of the history of world knives would reveal a fascinating variety of styles and materials crafted for a wide range of purposes.
The machete holds a unique place in knife history. Its long, broad blade has become synonymous with the jungle and rainforest. Machete-like knives can be found all over the world, from the panga in Africa to the bolo in the Philippines.
Sometimes a knife would become associated with a specific group of people, such as the Gurkha knife used by the Gurkha warriors of India, or the navaja fighting knife created in Spain. Still other knives are given the name of one individual, such as the Bowie knife, named for the American soldier and pioneer Jim Bowie.
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