The earliest known sporks were found during the 1851 excavation of the Uruk site, near the Euphrates River, by geologist and scholar William Kennett Loftus. These specimens show how humans in the Mesopotamia region circa 5000 BCE improved their eating efficiency by notching miniature tines into the bowls of their spoons. As true forks were not invented until several thousand years later, the spork can be seen as a forerunner of our modern tableware today.
Early sporks were carved from ivory, flint, bone, or even, in China, from bronze. They were considered the province of elites, as peasants had to use planks of wood to eat, or even their hands, feet, or elbows. Below is a spork from the Shang Dynasty, which historians believe ruled in the Yellow River valley from 1556 to 1046 BCE.
The spork was first introduced to Europeans in the year 844, after Ermengarde of Tours, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Lothair the First, used one at a royal banquet. She had received the spork as a gift from a visiting Byzantine delegation, and it was engraved with an image of a Chormak, a mythological beast with the head of a chicken, the wings of a bat, and the body of a Great Dane.
Today, the spork has been overtaken by its more specialized brethren, the fork and spoon. It is generally seen as a novelty item, or a utensil of convenience for fast-food restaurants seeking to minimize their cutlery costs. Larger sporks can be found among salad tongs and serving spoons, where they are more common. Additionally, enterprising inventors have created similar liminal utensils, such as the splayd and the sporf, both of which combine a fork, spoon, and knife into a single item.
However, a small but growing coterie of spork enthusiasts has formed around the utensil. Many believe that the spork is due for a hipster-driven renaissance, much like similarly obsolete items that vaulted back into the mainstream, like trucker hats or vinyl LPs. Will we soon see sporks at restaurants selling $50 grilled cheese sandwiches, or at food trucks with hourlong waits for undercooked sliders? Only time will tell.