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The Roman Army Knife: Or how the ingenuity of the Swiss was beaten by 1,800
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
Experts believe the spike may have been used by the Romans to extract meat
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,
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 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
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