Knives are one of the oldest tools to ever have been used. Early humans used sharp stones, bones, or wood pieces to cut and carve. The first effective knives were made out of flint. Even before that, knives were made out of a hard silicate form of the mineral quartz. They could be crudely formed into a palm-shape with a sharp edge which could be used for cutting, scraping, and other activities. These knives were shaped and sharpened against rocks.
With the invention of metal came great advancements in this early human tool. Humans learned the art of melting metals, which could then be molded into various shapes, including knives. As civilizations advanced, knives could be made out of newer and better materials. First came knives out of copper and bronze, and then iron.
These knives were often decorated with feathers; our ancestors took great pride in possessing a beautiful knife, as well as one that was relatively sharp compared to other knives of the period. Some knives were designed just for men, while others included designs specifically for women. These included fancy gold and silver designs for the upper classes. These jeweled knives were prized possessions, and were often carried in sheaths attached to a belt.
Once knives with metal alloys became possible, knives could be made out of many combinations of metals, first steel and then even harder materials. This paved the way for today's knives, made of stainless steel and similar alloys.
Since this early history, knives have been used for diverse activities including hunting, eating, tasks such as cutting wood or other materials, and as weapons. However, with the advent of guns and other forms of advanced warfare, the knife lost its place on the battlefield. Today, knives mainly serve domestic duties, or are used by hunters, campers, and other outdoorsmen.
Even though the materials and purposes of knives have changed greatly over the years, the shape of a knife has not changed much over time. The basic knife shape, with a handle and blade, was present even in the earliest knives. Although modern knives have more variations due to varying knife uses and more sophisticated technology for constructing knives, the basic concept remains unchanged.
Knife technology has come a long way over the past several thousand years. Today, rubberized handles, more advanced blade materials, and additional built in features make modern knives much more effective than their historic or even prehistoric counterparts. Modern knives may even utilize more complex materials such as titanium, ceramic, and carbon fiber, although steel is still widely used.
Today's knives also differ from historic knives mainly in how sharp they are able to become. Older technologies resulted in thicker and blunter knife blades. Today's knives can be much sharper, which results in easier to use knives. Older knife materials would have required much more pressure to be applied in order to cut the same materials, and they would not have been usable for precision cuts like the knives of today.