Cutlery in its most basic form has been with us since Stone Age man ceased to tear his food with tooth and nail. The earliest cutting tools discovered by archaeologists date back to 500,000 BC when flint, slate and bone were all in use. A closer relative of today’s cutlery is a metal knife which is known to have been in use in 2000 BC. Every modern knife is a direct descendant of these early tools.
Spoons have a more recent history – little use was found for them in prehistoric times, but the discovery of fire meant that early man had to find some way to get hot food and liquids into his mouth. The forerunner of the spoon was probably the sea shell. The earliest example of a spoon as we know it is a clay piece dated at 5000 BC.
The fork came later. Anglo-Saxon forks have been found – dating back to the 9th century – but these tended to be little more than a skewer, sometimes with two prongs.. There is no reference to forks – as we know them – being used at the English table until the 17th century.
More recent history. In medieval England eating was mostly with fingers, cutting meat with a communal knife and at times using a spoon. A complementary place setting of matching knife, fork and spoon for each diner originated in renaissance Italy and developed in mid-17th century France at a time when art, craft and domestic sophistication signified political power.