Who Invented Sitting (Invention Timeline Explained)

Most people take chairs for granted, but the advent of the chairs started from the invention of sitting. While it is challenging to find information about when people began to sit, various pieces of evidence prove that sitting began with the ancient Egyptians, or probably earlier than they did. But since the truth cannot be ascertained, it is easy to conclude that chairs for people to sit on already existed since 2890 BC. The Greeks, Romans, and Aztecs had their chairs versions. However, the chairs were reserved for the kings, monarchs, and nobility. You can find more exciting information about sitting and chairs right here.

Who invented sitting?

Historians cannot determine who invented sitting. However, the discovery of the first chair, according to historical records, was about 2800 to 2700 BC. It looked like a kitchen stool, probably used by ancient Egyptians and Greeks. The Aztecs had chairs, too. But the chairs in the early days were often reserved for rulers and nobles.

Sitting’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Egyptians
    Only for people in power

    Only the high and mighty were allowed to sit on chairs during the time of the pharaohs. Only kings, bishops, and lords could sit on decorated chairs. The rulers sat on extremely ornamental chairs fashioned by early artisans. The community sat on chests, stools, or benches.

  • Ancient Greeks
    The klismos

    About 1400 BC, there was evidence of ancient Greeks making wooden chairs with four legs. They developed elegant but lighter chairs they called klismos. Greek artisans perfected the chair design by the 5th century. By the 4th century, the klismos became popular. It featured curving, splayed legs, a concave backrest, and curved back rails.

  • Ancient Romans
    The curule seat

    The ancient Romans developed the curule seat (Sella curulis), a foldable and transportable chair symbolizing military or political power. It was made of veneered wood, or ivory frame, with low arms, no back, and curved legs that formed a wide X.  Plaited leather straps formed the chair’s seat.

  • French Era
    Classy and intricate

    The chairs evolved and were modified with intricate carvings. French designers made them classy with padded upholstery, polychromatic surface treatments, and intricate carvings. They created different styles and sizes, such as wing chairs, sofa beds, sleeping chairs, and armchairs with high backs. As the center of art and fashion, the French created various designs following the prevailing art styles.

  • Commercial era
    New materials and additional details

    Chairs were given more curves and other details. Aside from the modern upholstery, chair makers used different materials, with the legs and backs of chairs sawn out of solid wood. Detailing was an essential feature of the chair’s frame. Chair legs were either spirally fluted or straight. Chair backs had various shapes – oval, rectangular, or square.  

When was sitting invented?

Based on historical records, the first chair was not a physical one. Instead, it was a sculpture of a chair from the Cycladic Islands showing a musician playing the harp. The man was sitting on a piece of furniture that looked like a straight-back chair with four legs, dating back to 2800 to 2700 BC.

A brief history of sitting

While people in the modern world seem to be sitting for so long, there is scant information about the history of sitting. According to historical records, the earliest signs of seats were only 5,000 years ago. In ancient times, sitting was occasional and often with a purpose. For example, in the past, leaders would sit on a high place, such as a rock or tree trunk, so the community could see and hear the leader. Later, the elevated seat became a sign of dignity and respect.

Soon, people used their artistic and craftsmanship skills to design apparatuses for sitting. The first civilization to use chairs was the ancient Egyptians. Their Pharaohs had high-backed thrones with 90-degree angles. Such a design and how a monarch sat on the upright chair showed the rulers’ divinity.

Different civilizations and eras produced unique chairs, while other chairs were variations of popular designs. However, as chairs changed design from the stiff and upright to the most comfortable and ergonomic chairs of today, sitting is getting a bad rap. Most research says that sitting for long periods is terrible for a person’s health. But the operative word here is “long periods.”

People who work in offices spend around seven hours sitting in front of their computers. For the employees working from home, the length of their workday is often longer. As researchers profess that sitting down for long hours without frequent breaks, they also recommend that people should change their work habits. Instead of continuously sitting for 60 to 90 minutes, they should get up and move around every 30 minutes to encourage proper blood circulation in their legs.

Likewise, investing in modern chairs, specially designed for people who need to work long hours, could be a wise decision. Herman Miller designed the first ergonomic chair, while Bill Stumpf created the chair (Ergon Chair) in 1976. The purpose of the invention is to help sustain physical health and improve the human body’s comfort by strategically placing foam-filled support, especially for the neck, butts, spine, and back. Stumpf studied orthopedics and analyzed office workers’ movements before creating the ergonomic chair. The chair likewise includes levers to adjust the tilt and height of the chair. The tandem released a new version in 1994 in cooperation with Don Chadwick, a renowned specialist in office seating.

Sitting timeline

  1. 2nd Dynasty of Egypt
    Chair or throne

    Archeologists found evidence of ancient Egyptians using chairs around the 2nd Dynasty of Egypt, circa 2890 to 2699 BC. The chair, which might as well be a throne, was shown in Pharaoh Nynetjer’s statuette. Their chairs were made with various materials with wood as a base embellished with colored glass, ivory, precious gems, gold, and ebony.

  2. 6th to 7th century BC
    Greco-Roman Period

    The earliest chair used by the Greeks was seen at a frieze of the Parthenon, which showed Zeus seated on a square chair with thick turned legs and bar-back. The Roman made chairs of marble decorated with sphinxes. One of the surviving examples is the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica.

  3. 5th century AD
    Medieval chairs

    Several styles emerged during this period. Examples include the chair of Maximian for Archbishop Maximianus of Ravenna carved in Alexandria. Other examples are the Chair of Augustine and the Chair of Dagobert. The latter is made from cast bronze. Also popular were the curule chair and its variations, used by monarchs in the Netherlands, France, and England.

  4. 6th century AD
    Chinese chairs

    During the Han Dynasty, people used to sit on the floor in the lotus or seiza positions. Chairs were reserved for the Chinese emperor and his immediate court. Around the 10th century, upright chairs with wooden frames began to appear. The most expensive chairs used Chinese rosewood that takes 300 years to grow.

  5. 15th to 16th centuries
    Renaissance period

    Artisans tried to revive and surpass the popularity of classical antiquity. The chairs were made in various sturdiness, shapes, and sizes while following men’s and women’s fashion. Most of the chairs used wood with plenty of embellishments. Padded back panels featured handmade needlework and primarily leather accents.  

Where was sitting invented?

No one can determine where sitting started, but seats existed about 5,000 years ago during the times of the Pharaohs of Egypt. Initially, leaders would sit on a tree trunk or large rock so the community could hear them better. But later, an elevated seat became a sign of dignity and respect.

The people love to sit

  • Take a break

    Standing makes the muscles work a bit, and when you move around, the muscles work even more. Sitting down lets you take a break and allows your muscles to rest.

  • Feel comfortable

    Sitting down makes people comfortable, especially if they are tired. Sitting makes them relax and feel comfortable while resting. Resting on a chair, as long as it is not for a long time, removes the burden on the legs and feet.

  • Better digestion

    Sitting on the floor while eating, a traditional practice among Asian people helps digest food better. It allows you to stretch your legs and bend down to pick up your food. The action works your abdominal muscles and secretes digestive juices that help digestion.

  • Improves posture

    Standing for a long time makes some people hunch or crouch their shoulders. This posture is not suitable for their healthy spines. Sitting down, as long as the person observes good posture, will keep the back erect. For office workers, using an ergonomic chair helps keep better posture even when sitting down.

  • Helps people exercise

    Even if people sit down, they can still perform seated exercises daily to stay active. Seated exercises give the same benefits while reducing the risk of discomfort or injury. These exercises can strengthen muscles, improve balance and flexibility, increase blood circulation, boost energy levels, improve mental health, and enhance memory and thinking.

Sitting by the numbers

  • 1The body’s calorie-burning ability goes down to one calorie per minute as soon as you sit down. Likewise, the electrical activity of your leg muscles stops as soon as you sit down.
  • 2.5Obese people sit 2.5 hours more than thin people in the U.S., where about one in three Americans are obese.
  • 20After two hours of sitting down, good cholesterol drops by 20 percent. A higher number for good cholesterol (HDL) is better because it lowers the risk of heart disease, which is associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Men and women’s ideal HDL level should be 60 cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood.
  • 30 to 60Daily exercise for 30 to 60 minutes is enough to counter the adverse effects of sitting for several hours. You can do lower-impact movements or higher-intensity cardio exercises. The important thing is to increase your heart rate. If you cannot exercise, ensure that you stand up every 20 or 30 minutes to stretch your legs.  
  • 5000According to historians, the earliest signs of chairs appeared around 5,000 years ago. People did not sit for long during ancient times. Sitting down back then was for leaders to meet with the community. It was only later that sitting on a chair became a symbol of power and authority.

Five facts about sitting

  • Reveals your personality

    The way you sit reveals more about your personality. For example, if you always sit up straight with good posture, you are confident, strong, and reliable. On the other hand, if you often cross your ankles, it means you are elegant and refined but open, comfortable, and down-to-earth.

  • Classic office chair

    Charles Darwin was thought to create the first office chair when he attached legs and wheels to his chair so he could move around his workspace quickly. In 1849, American inventor Thomas E. Warren created the Centripetal Spring Armchair. Warren’s design featured a swivel mechanism and castors to allow office workers to access things easily without standing up.

  • Most expensive chair

    The Dragons armchair is the world’s most expensive chair. The unique chair was created between 1917 and 1919 by Irish architect and designer Aileen Gray. It was part of her first commission, and the armchair stayed in the apartment of Mme. Mathieu-Levy. It is currently worth about $30 million.

  • Fish rocking chair

    In 2011, fisherman-turned-artist Tristan Cochrane created a one-of-a-kind functional sculpture called the Fish Rocking Chair. The entire chair comprised assembled aluminum sardines. The artist created wax molds of different sardines for this work

  • Built for comfort and world domination

    In 2016, French artist Harold Sangouard (Harow) showcased his newest creation, a skull chair fashioned from handmade fiberglass and steel structure, with a luxurious black velvet seat. The multi-faceted skull frame that forms the back and legs of the chair is coated in 24-karat gold plating. The armchair carries a $500,000 price tag.

FAQs about sitting

  • Why is prolonged sitting harmful?

    Research showed that sitting for long periods could lead to obesity, unhealthy cholesterol levels, excess body fat around the waist, high blood sugar, and increased blood pressure.

  • How can you improve your health even if your work demands you sit down?

    According to a study, reducing your sitting down time by 21 minutes each day and doing light-intensity physical activity will help you reduce the health risks associated with long hours spent sitting down.

  • What happens to your body when you sit all day?

    When you sit all day, your legs and glute muscles weaken. As a result, you also gain weight, suffer from stiff neck and shoulders, shorten your hip flexors, and develop chronic lower back pain. You may also develop varicose veins, which puts you at risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Leave a Comment