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Sitting at the Dawn of Civilisation

Updated on May 22, 2016

Oscar Montelius, a professor of archaeology was giving a talk in Västerås. He was presented a photograph by one of the audience. The picture was of an old bench. The professor realised at the moment that this bench could be important. He thought it may have been from the 11th or 12th century. Perhaps even the oldest piece of furniture in Sweden. The piece was later collected and summoned to the Museum, where it is now a very prominent piece of the Swedish History.

It seems that since a very long time, more than we can trace, man has been looking for a place to sit down. And while the concept of sitting may have varied amongst societies and cultures, the basic idea remains the same. While the historical record is not so clear, however- when early migratory people first settled down, it appears from archaeological evidence, that the civilised people were seated in a form that was elevated from the ground.

The terms “bench” and “form” can be used interchangeably to refer to backless and elongated wooden seating. Originally a bench may have been freestanding and movable, whereas a form referred to a bench fixed to the wall. Furthermore, the term “bench” has acquired the additional meaning of a work surface, such as a cabinetmaker’s workbench.

— Graham Blackburn

The Ancient form of Benches

Since the concept of sitting down is quite simple, I begin my study by asking basic questions. When did benches ever come into existence? Were they formed in the same way they are today?

Archaeological evidence of relics at structural sites suggest chair and bench-like areas ... which leads us to believe that it emerged during the stone age. Only in the past, benches were constructed without a back and it was considered as a form of elevating the person from the ground. It also served as a way to distinguish humans from animals.

Though there is no definite way of tracing back the very first structural existence of a bench, evidence leads us to several areas of the world in which the earliest benches were constructed. It is believed for example, that the common construction of an elevated seating with a back is a western concept. On the other hand, records show that the vast majority of the earliest Chinese did not use chairs or benches. Instead, they knelt on the ground and leaned on their heels. When later it was introduced, it was used for utilitarian reasons mainly. Seats were found in Chinese tombs; their designs remained relatively unchanged throughout the sixteenth century.

Did you know?

During the17th century benches were considered as an indication of power. This was especially noticeable in mediaeval courts of law, where every one stood but the judge, who sat on a raised bench.

Top 5 Bench Types

Choosing a bench for an intended space can sound like an easy task. But unless you know where you want to place your bench, you won't be able to easily select one. Below are the Top 5 Bench Types. These types are categorised according to their intended purpose.

Memorial Benches

Memorial Benches are often placed where the location provides a certain importance to the owner. They are meant to provide a place for meditation, relaxation or a general recap for groups or individuals. People create these to offer an escape where they would be able to reflect over cherished memories of their departed, or past events that were significant in their lives.

Wedding Benches are also known as Memorial Benches. These are usually brought to the Bride & Groom on the day of their wedding and is signed by friends and family. (See figure)

The benches are made from a wide variety of timber, which grow in different climatic conditions of the world depending on the species. Some factors that are considered while choosing the timber for these benches is to make sure of its durability. Also sometimes to select a pattern that is related to the person whom the memorial was established for.

Bench Art

Here's a really awesome bench that you'd often see in public areas. In western cultures, people like to paint all sorts of things. We see them paint trash cans, wall graffiti, corridors and even below abandoned tunnels. So it doesn't come as a surprise that we see these lovely painted benches. While some people like to use benches as places to sit. Others see it as a medium to create art.

Here's a picture of an example of a bench project that brought local artists together with local business sponsors to build a stronger sense of community. This also provided residents with a beautiful and creative place to sit. It was also auctioned off for a charity fundraiser along with 34 other benches across Illinois. The benches were designed by a local architect Pat Gallagher, assembled by local Boy Scouts and made available to local artists to paint, decorate and embellish.

So if you ever come short on ideas for your next charity fundraiser, this sounds like a good place to start!

Meditation Benches

A meditation bench provides ample support and comfort to sit during meditation. The angle of the bench allows you to sit easily with your spine straight, yet relaxed. As the interest in meditation increases so does the request for these benches. People could sit on these benches for a long time without feeling strained.

Storage Benches

The storage bench offers simple and attractive solutions to the problems of today’s modern home - storage. Two things describing why having a storage bench is a must: First, it keeps clutter to a minimum and; Second, it provides additional seating. The idea of the outdoor storage bench is to provide homes comfort and extra space to move. An outdoor storage bench is made from materials to suit every need such as plastic, recycled plastic, teak, wood and wicker.

Constructing a Simple Wooden Bench


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