Mankind ate by hand for thousands of years until the dawn of civilization, when we started to use many different tools to skewer and cut up our food. Many archeological findings have uncovered pointed utensils made from a wide variety of different materials, from the earliest in animal bones up to the more evolved ones in steel.
The first traces of the fork date back to Roman times, courtesy of archeological finds of primitive forks on exhibit at Italy's "Museo di Ventimiglia," as a testimony to the use of forks around the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. The use of hands continued to prevail over the use of the fork, however.
It was not until the Early Middle Ages, most likely in the courts of Bisanzio, that the fork was found in regular use.
Italian literature testifies to the use of the fork sometime after the year 1000 in cities like Venice, Pisa and Florence. According to these accounts, the fork was particularly common among merchants and the middle class, while the Ovid table manners continued to prevail in the noble courts, consisting of using three fingers to pick the food up directly from the plate.
One of the first undisputed discoveries on the use of the personal fork at the table was passed down to us from San Pier Damiani (1007-1072). In his writings, he tells of a Byzantine princess who came to Venice to marry a 'doge' (chief magistrate) and how she always used a two-pronged fork instead of touching food with her hands.
It was not until around 1500 that the fork had established itself as a sign of good manners.
The fork slowly spread from the Italian courts across Europe, first to France, thanks to Catherine de Medici, and then the courts of northern Europe. Widespread use of the fork did not become commonplace until the latter half of the 1700s.
Today, the fork is found on the tables of millions of people and represents one of the most-used inventions of all history.