Skip to main content

Look, think, do: Roman "Swiss Army Knife"

Description of this object or artwork

This folding eating gadget has a three-pronged fork, a spoon,a spatula,a pick, a spike and an iron knife that has eroded away. There is a hinge to allow each item to be folded out when it was needed, or folded away for ease of transporting it. The spike might of helped in extracting the meat from snails, and the spatula in scraping sauce out of narrow-necked bottles. Some have even suggested the pick with the tiny spoon on the end could have been used to remove earwax.

While many less elaborate bronze folding knives have been discovered from antiquity, this one's complex design and the fact it is made from silver suggests it is a luxury item. Perhaps a useful gadget for a wealthy traveller or soilder to show off, but not really intended for heavy use, as silver is a soft and pliable metal.

Roman "Swiss Army Knife"

Middle Roman 201 CE - 300 CE

Silver and Iron

8.8cm X 15.5 cm



Many people have wondered how this was used 2,000 years ago.

Take a closer look, what would you use each bit for? 

What would you name each one?


Design a Roman Menu to eat with this tool. Need help with inspiration research?

Have a look at these recipes from the Classical Cookbook by The British Museum.

Make sure it has things to cut, scoop, pick and crack open.


Invent and design your own handy tool, what would it help you do?

You can use these tips for inspiration 

Collections record

Collection record: 70534

Sign up to our emails

Be the first to hear about our news, exhibitions, events and more…

Sign up