Have you ever wondered about the oldest pocket knife ever found? What would you guess the age would be? When exactly did man decide to take a blade, cut the tang, put a hole in for a pivot pin, and put that in a handle so that the knife could fold in on itself and therefore be carried in the pocket safely? It would seem like the technical skill required to do this would have been relatively sophisticated and therefore it wouldn’t have been too far in the distant past. But guess again. I’ll bet the oldest recovered artifact is older than you think!
Hallstatt is a village is present day Austria. The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Western and Central European culture of the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age Europe from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. The culture was primarily agricultural but had particularly advanced metal working techniques in comparison to other European cultures. A salt mine in the area helped bolster the local economy by creating a trade good that was in demand throughout the wider region. Archaeologists have found many rich sites to excavate, and a burial ground has produced a treasure trove of artifacts that give us a window into this culture.
One of those artifacts uncovered is called The Hallstatt Knife. The artifact dates to approximately 500 to 600 BC, and is the oldest known folding knife. The knife had a bone handle and looks very similar to a knife you would see today. The pattern was sort of like a Hawksbill, and it has a metal bolster and a grooved bone handle to safely receive the blade.
It is fascinating to think that a folding knife of this technical degree was made 2600 years ago. But one must realize that this knife was certainly not the “first” folding knife. Obviously, it was a highly sophisticated tool, and not the first of its kind; rather it’s just the oldest we have found in the archeological record. We can only speculate as to how “developed” this style of knife was at the time this one was made, but certainly the artisan who made it was a master bladesmith.