Date Made/Found: around 50 BC
Material and Medium: iron, bronze
Dimensions: Overall: 170mm (6 11/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2004.113
This object is a small knife, probably for eating. The handle is in the form of a leg with a detailed boot. The knife dates to the Roman period, around 50 BC and was made in Continental Europe.
The handle is bronze and the blade is made from iron. Bronze is an alloy (mix) containing mostly copper with varying amounts of tin added to it. The addition of tin gives strength and hardness to the metal. Bronze is particularly suited to casting objects using moulds, like this knife handle.
Many of the cooking, serving and eating implements used in the past are instantly recognisable today. Throughout history, many cultures have played an important part in the evolution of these objects. As people moved from place to place, they brought with them new ideas, objects, foods and eating habits.
The Romans introduced a new range of knife types into Britain. Table forks did not exist in Britain until the 1600s, when they arrived from Italy. At first they were used for eating sweetmeats at the end of a feast at Italian and French courts. Use of this new eating implement was ridiculed in England, but became commonplace by the 1700s.
The cutlery industry in Sheffield was influenced by people settling in the city, as many important firms were established by people from outside of Britain. For example, Viners, Maurice Baum and B & J Sippel were founded by European families. Sheffield firms sent their products all over the world to countries that were part of the British Empire.
These objects form part of the Bill Brown Collection. Supported by The Art Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of Museums Sheffield.