Disposable cup 35,000 years old
● Wine cups from ancient Crete show throwaway society goes very far back
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