Some very early tables were made and used by the Ancient Egyptians around 2500 BC, using wood and alabaster. They were often little more than stone platforms used to keep objects off the floor, though a few examples of wooden tables have been found in tombs. Food and drinks were usually put on large plates deposed on a pedestal for eating. The Egyptians made use of various small tables and elevated playing boards. The Chinese also created very early tables in order to pursue the arts of writing and painting, as did people in Mesopotamia, where various metals were used.
The Greeks and Romans made more frequent use of tables, notably for eating, although Greek tables were pushed under a bed after use. The Greeks invented a piece of furniture very similar to the guéridon. Tables were made of marble or wood and metal (typically bronze or silver alloys), sometimes with richly ornate legs. Later, the larger rectangular tables were made of separate platforms and pillars. The Romans also introduced a large, semicircular table to Italy, the mensa lunata.
Furniture during the Middle Ages is not as well known as that of earlier or later periods, and most sources show the types used by the nobility. In the Eastern Roman Empire, tables were made of metal or wood, usually with four feet and frequently linked by x-shaped stretchers. Tables for eating were large and often round or semicircular. A combination of a small round table and a lectern seemed very popular as a writing table. In western Europe, the invasions and internecine wars caused most of the knowledge inherited from the classical era to be lost. As a result of the necessary movability, most tables were simple trestle tables, although small round tables made from joinery reappeared during the 15th century and onward. In the Gothic era, the chest became widespread and was often used as a table.
Refectory tables first appeared at least as early as the 17th century, as an advancement of the trestle table; these tables were typically quite long and wide and capable of supporting a sizeable banquet in the great hall or other reception room of a castle.
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