After the retreat of the last ice age, the hunter-gatherer communities of the Stone Age gradually began to acquire the skills of agriculture, and civilizations were born. No longer perpetually on the move in an endless search for food, families were able to build homes and acquire possessions. Division of labor was possible, and skilled craftsmen began to develop their trades in producing articles such as jewelry, pottery and furniture.
Although much ancient art such as pottery and jewelry survives from the earliest civilizations, ancient furniture was mostly wooden, and has long since rotted away. Our knowledge of ancient furniture is mainly derived from scenes depicted in early art forms, such as pottery decorations and frescos. Perhaps the earliest furniture in existence is that found at Catal Huyuk in Turkey that dates from around 3000 BC.
A valuable contribution to our knowledge of ancient furniture came from the excavation site at Akrotiri, where the Minoan city of Thera was preserved by lava from a volcanic eruption. Although the actual furniture has long since perished, it has left cavities in the larval rock. By using these cavities as moulds, archaeologists have been able to reproduce the furniture that stood in these ancient Minoan homes.
The best examples of ancient furniture still in existence are those found in the tombs of Egyptian noblemen. Egyptian furniture was placed in tombs for the use of the deceased in the afterlife, and many items are still in good condition due to the hot, dry climate and the fact that they were sealed inside the burial chambers.
Many items of ancient Chinese furniture have also been preserved, since Chinese civilization has continued uninterrupted for thousands of years, and works of art have been treasured through the centuries.
Egyptian & Graeco Roman
Although surviving Egyptian furniture, Greek furniture and Roman furniture is rare, a lot of information is available regarding the ancient design of homes and furniture in these cultures. This is because ancient Egyptian art, Greek art, and ancient Roman art, artifacts and literature are plentiful, giving us a good idea of how these ancient people lived.
Greek, Roman and Egyptian decor was the inspiration for the neoclassical furniture styles popular in Europe and America in the 18th and 19th centuries particularly the neoclassical furniture of the late Georgian era in England and also Regency Furniture.