A question on dovetails on WoodCentral led to a discussion of their history, and one of the posters produced a link to a photo of a box with some of (if not the) earliest examples of dovetails on record:
Ancient Roman box, dated from the 2nd or 3rd century, currently located in Limesmuseaum Aalen (German language site) in Baden Württemberg.
See the original link (Google translation) to the photo on woodworking.de.
It's a fascinating piece, I think most would agree. I love this sort of old research... and there's some real sophistication in the design of this box - though I guess sophistication shouldn't be a surprise when you review artworks of the period. Helenistic statues display the foremost sophistication, for example... But I digress
The poster also included an informative link to another German site on Roman woodworking tools I also found very interesting.
This box some fairly sophisticated woodworking - and obviously the dovetails' design is well developed at this point. It's pretty obvious to me that they've been around for (literally) thousands of years... Interesting that the idea of craftsmanship hasn't really changed all that much in all this time, isn't it? There is a legacy to woodworking that goes back hundreds of generations, which is something that is easy to forget in the "we do it so much better now" frame of mind.
It reminds me of some of the items that have been passed down to me..,. One of my most treasured came from the old country with my grandparents - it's a traveling/storage box known as a "koffort": Read more about Early Dovetails