Check out the following 13 iconic pieces of furniture from the Stone Age to the American antebellum… so brew up a pot of java, sit back and enjoy!
1. King Arthur’s Round Table
When: 500 A.D. – 600 A.D. (Around 1,400 years ago)
Where: The Great Hall of Camelot
Who: The legendary King Arthur
Let’s make one thing clear from the get go; no one really knows if King Arthur ever trod upon the green grass of England. The legends that surround him are so numerous it’s next to impossible for scholars to separate fact from fiction. There is however one element that all of the legends agree upon; that King Arthur had a big round table.
King Arthur decided upon a round table so that no knight could be held in higher esteem than any other; a round table has no head. Still today, major meetings between politicians of different countries occur around a round table.
2. Mohammad’s Curtain
When: 619 – 632 (7th century – 1,400 years ago)
Where: The 2nd wife of Mohammad Aisha’s tent, Arabia
Who: The Prophet Mohammad
Known in Turkish as the Sancak-ı Şerif and in English as the Battle Standard of Mohammed, this piece of cloth is originally thought to have been hung over the entrance of his 2nd wife’s tent. It was acquired in the 1500’s by the powerful Turkish Sultan Selim the 1st, who sent it to aid with the conquest of Hungary.
In 1595 another Turkish sultan, Muhammad the 3rd, had it sewn together with the standard of Umar (one of the first people to convert to Islam), and placed within the golden box seen above. The standard was deployed during the 1st World War to improve the morale of the Ottoman’s armies. Its whereabouts have been unknown since the 1920’s.
3. Tutankhamen’s Bedside Table
When: 1333–1323 BC (3,400 years ago)
Where: Most likely one of the royal cities of Ancient Egypt
Who: 18th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamen,
The opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb revealed furniture that had not been seen by the eyes of man for thousands of years. Preserved in the arid desert climate of the Valley of the Kings, wood had not rotted and paint had not peeled.
The small table above is made from ebony, and the insert panels from Lebanese cedar. The metal fixtures are made from bronze. The fretwork around the middle of the box incorporates gold-plated ankhs. The entire piece is painted with golden hieroglyphics.
4. Stone Age Dresser
When: Around 3000 B.C. (5,000 years ago)
Where: Bay of Skaill, Orkney, Scotland
Who: Grooved Wear Tribe.
Skara Brae is one of the best preserved Stone Age settlements in the entire world, sometimes called the ‘Scottish Pompeii’ due to its excellent condition. The lack of wood on the island meant that nearly all the furnishings of the home were constructed from dry stone, greatly aiding their chances of survival.
Within the houses of Skara Brea there are beds, dressers, cupboards, seats, and storage boxes. Most homes have two beds, a large one for the husband and a small one for the wife. Some of the larger houses even have an indoor toilet and the settlement as a whole has a sewer system that is better than most medieval towns!
5. Carpet of a Pazyryk Chief
When: Around 500 B.C. (1,500 years ago)
Where: Ukok Plateau, Siberia, Central Asia
Who: A wealthy Pazyryk Chief
The history of the carpet is hard to trace. The materials used in their construction are perishable and, until the 20th century, the earliest date they had been produced was thought to have been the 13th century.
Russian archaeologist Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko discovered the burial mounds in Siberia in the 1920’s, after 30 years of work and numerous other discoveries (detailed here) he uncovered the carpet.
The carpet measures around 2m x 2m and has three borders, an innermost depicts griffons, the middle shows fallow deer and the outermost has a design composed of stylised work horses and men.
6. Abraham Lincoln’s Whatnot
When: 1844 – 1861 (Around 150 years ago)
Where: Springfield Illinois
Who: 16th president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln
The Whatnot was exceedingly popular during the first three quarters of the 19th century (1800-1874). It consisted of slender uprights and a series designed to hold ornaments, geegaws, trifles, busts or what-not, its name describes what it holds.
This fine what-not was owned by Lincoln whilst he was resident in Springfield Illinois; he left it at that home upon becoming president. The Whitehouse no doubt contained a superior version.
7. The Bed of Marie Antoinette
When: 1770 – 1789 (240 years ago)
Where: Palace of Versailles, Île-de-France, France
Who: Queen of France, Arch Duchess of Austria, Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette’s very name is associated with luxury and opulence, it is nice to see that her bed does not disappoint.
The bed is hand-carved in gold gilt. It is covered in three types of 22k gold thread; green, gold and red. The canopy hangings are hand-woven Lyon silk with matching train and tassels. This bed was only used in the summer. Every season the curtains, wall fabrics and upholstery were changed to match the mood. The French royalty really knew how to live!
8. The Peacock Throne
When: Created sometime in the 1630’s
Where: Diwan-i-Am, Delhi, India
Who: 5th Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan
The Mugals were a central Asian dynasty, descended from two of the greatest conquerers of all time; Tamerlane and Genghis Khan. The 5th, and greatest, ruler of the Dynasty was Shah Jahan, he commissioned the throne to celebrate his own excellence and the success of his empire.
The name of the throne comes from the two massive peacocks that originally stood behind it, their tails forming a back drop further inlaid with rubies, sapphires and emeralds. When the throne was captured in 1738 by the Persians they recorded that it contained over 230kgs of precious stones and 1150kgs of gold. The throne also mounted the Koh-i-noor, the largest diamond in the world and now in the possession of the Queen of England.
9. The Couch of Co-Emperor Lucius Verus
When: 161–169 A.D (around 1840 years ago)
Where: Imperial villa on the Via Cassia, Rome, Italy
Who: Co-Emperor Lucius Verus
The Roman theory of interior design was very different to our own. The Romans liked clear, open rooms with an absolute minimum of furniture and highly decorated walls and ceilings. The few pieces of furniture present in a Roman room would be very expensive well-crafted masterpieces.
This couch is decorated with glass and bone inlays. The couch is also decorated with images of hunting, cupids and Greco-Roman gods such as Ganymede and Mars.
10. Ivory Chair of Maximian
When: Sometime within the 540’s A.D. (around 1500 years ago)
Where: Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy
Who: Bishop of Ravenna, Maximian
Chairs in the early Christian Church were of great importance. Bishops sat within these chairs and represented the higher echelons of the church to the laity. This chair currently sits in the San Vitale Basilica of Ravenna Italy.
Probably made in Constantinople and sent, by sea, to Ravenna, it is made of ivory panels. The surviving panels depict the life of Christ, the story of Joseph, and the four evangelists.
11. George Washington’s Desk
When: 1789 – 1790 (220 years ago)
Where: Federal Hall, Wall Street, New York, New York, USA
Who: 1st President of the United States of America, George Washington
This is the desk George Washington used during his time at the Federal hall of New York City; the desk is made of mahogany with brass fittings.
The style of this desk is known as Sheraton Style, famous for the simplicity of its outline, graceful proportions and lack of ostentatious ornamentation
12. Isono Tamba-no-kami’s Stool
When: Sometime in the mid 1500’s (Around 500 years ago)
Where: Sawayama Castle, Omi Province, Japan
Who: Lord of Sawayama Castle, retainer of the Azai Clan, Isono Tamba-no-Kami
The Samurai camp stool was often carried by a Lord’s retainers and would often be used by Samurai generals on campaign and when overseeing more static engagements such as a siege. This example is from the 16th century.
This Ukiyo-e from the 1870’s shows Isono Tamba-no-Kami sat upon his general’s stool; he was famous for accidentally attacking his ally in the midst of battle.
13. Oeberg Storage Box
When: Sometime in the 800’s (Around 1200 years ago)
Where: In a large burial mound, Slagen, Vestfold, Norway
Who: Two well-fed, high-status females were found within the ship.
The chest comes from the inside of a Viking burial mound; it is the most ornate of three boxes that were also discovered to be hidden inside the boat. It was locked with a simple iron hasp reminiscent of those on footlockers today.
The chest is decorated with iron bands six inches wide, the structure is held together with wooden pegs and nails that have been plated with tin. The Vikings were not only famous for their skill in battle but also their metal-working; the box contained blacksmiths tools.