Dis­pos­able cup 35,000 years old

● Wine cups from an­cient Crete show throw­away so­ci­ety goes very far back

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SHERNA NOAH

An an­cient cup, de­signed to be hurled out with the rub­bish, is go­ing on dis­play at the Bri­tish Museum.

The 3,500-year-old, sin­gle-use ves­sel was made by one of the first ad­vanced civil­i­sa­tions in Europe, and used for drink­ing wine.

Thou­sands of the cups have been dis­cov­ered and one will go on dis­play at “Rub­bish And Us” at the Bri­tish Museum – which has faced pres­sure over its spon­sor­ship deal with oil gi­ant BP.

An an­cient cup, de­signed to be hurled out with the rub­bish, is go­ing on dis­play at the Bri­tish Museum, demon­strat­ing that even then thou­sands of years ago, no­body wanted to do the wash­ing up.

The 3,500-ear-old, sin­gleuse ves­sel, which once con­tained wine rather than coffee, was made by the Mi­noans, one of the first ad­vanced civil­i­sa­tions in Europe.

Thou­sands of the han­dle­less, con­i­cal clay cups have been dis­cov­ered on arche­o­log­i­cal sites on the is­land of Crete and at the palace of Knos­sos.

The civil­i­sa­tion is thought to have col­lapsed af­ter the Mi­noans rapidly ex­hausted re­sources on the small is­land and be­cause of a then “nat­u­ral fluc­tu­a­tion” of cli­mate change.

The cup will go on show at the dis­play “Rub­bish And Us” at the Bri­tish Museum, which has been un­der pres­sure over en­vi­ron­ment-re­lated is­sues with its spon­sor­ship deal with oil gi­ant BP.

Ju­lia Far­ley, who is a cu­ra­tor at the Bri­tish Museum, said: “Peo­ple may be very sur­prised to know that dis­pos­able, sin­gle-use cups are not the in­ven­tion of our mod­ern con­sumerist so­ci­ety, but in fact can be traced back thou­sands of years.”

Mi­noans gath­ered at the palace for par­ties, feasts and gath­er­ings such as bull-leap­ing fes­ti­vals – a “more risky” ver­sion of hur­dling.

Far­ley said: “The elite were show­ing off their wealth and sta­tus by throw­ing th­ese great big par­ties, feasts and fes­ti­vals.

“Peo­ple were get­ting to­gether in large groups and much like today, no­body wants to do the wash­ing up.”

As well as be­ing con­ve­nient, the cup was a means of show­ing off wealth be­cause of all the re­sources “poured into mak­ing it”.

Ms Far­ley said she hoped the dis­play would make vis­i­tors think cre­atively about re­duc­ing waste, in­stead of just feel­ing guilty.

“Human be­ings have al­ways pro­duced rub­bish. Mak­ing some rub­bish is an un­avoid­able by-prod­uct of be­ing human.

“We are tool-us­ing an­i­mals. We wear clothes. Noth­ing lasts for­ever. It’s in the very nature of our ex­is­tence that we make rub­bish.”

But she said: “This is a sober­ing mes­sage about scale and con­sump­tion and I think we need to find that bal­ance, which hu­mans have never been very good at find­ing.”

The an­cient ob­ject will be shown along­side a waxed pa­per cup from the early 1990s – made at around the same time mod­ern dis­pos­able cups were tak­ing off.

‘Dis­pos­able , sin­gleuse cups are not the in­ven­tion of our mod­ern con­sumerist so­ci­ety, but in fact can be traced back thou­sands of years’

JU­LIA FAIR­LEY, BRI­TISH MUSEUM CU­RA­TOR

0 Dis­pos­able Mi­noan clay cups used for drink­ing wine are in the Bri­tish Museum’s ex­hi­bi­tion ‘Rub­bish and Us’ which opens this week

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