It can be argued that the cane has been used since the dawn of man. It has been a useful tool and faithful companion of man as an implement and as support. The use and significance of walking sticks can be seen throughout ancient history.
In biblical history, the rod and staff were valuable tools to the shepherds. The rod was a stick about a yard long with a knob on the top end, while the staff resembled the modern cane. Additionally, accounts indicate that sometime after 1451 BC, Moses and Aaron showcase the power of God through the use of a “rod” or “staff”. In Hebrew this frequently refers to a wooden cane employed to assist in walking or standing. This also often refers to authority and power and the Hebrew word for “rod” or “staff” is also translated to the word “tribe” because each tribe had its own unique staff identifying them. The staff appears in the Psalms also.
In ancient Egypt, the first known cane, a simple, straight walking stick, appears around 1900 BC. Canes are depicted in ancient hieroglyphics. The crook, a type of walking stick, was one of the implements associated with the ancient Egyptian god, Osiris. Walking sticks were carried by pharaohs. Not only was the tool used in life, but it was meant to be used in death as well. In the tomb of King Tutankhamen was discovered over 130 walking sticks dating back to the year 1358 BC. Walking sticks were also carried by dignitaries, civil servants, priests, and even servants. Likewise, in other areas, like Persia, the cane was a royal or ceremonial article. Indeed, in Persia, the holding out of the scepter by the king was a gesture of clemency.
In ancient Greece they appear to have first been utilitarian creations, and then later evolve to become statements of fashion, and then of status. In Rome, all men carried walking sticks. In time, they became decorated, some with precious stones. The cane was also used as a symbol of rank and leadership. In the world of the warrior, the cane was used to indicate rank, used as an object of punishment, to declare war, and to declare peace. The cane is even featured in Greek mythology, carried by some the gods such as Hermes, Dionysus, Athena, and others, and was the answer to the riddle posed by the Sphinx and solved by Oedipus.
In another instance of the use of the cane is seen in perhaps the first record of the use of a gadget cane, two Byzantine priests smuggled silkworms out of China in hollow walking sticks. These silkworms were brought into southern Europe, where a silk factory was established for the manufacture of silk cloth.
Thus, we can see the prevalence of the cane, or walking stick, in ancient world history. The cane has significance in the Bible and Greek mythology, and plays a role in ancient society. Today, while the collectible cane can be viewed as a possible indication of wealth, and as a result, a type of status, most often the walking stick is seen in a utilitarian sense, assisting with mobility.