It's easy to forget when you're playing your millionth game of computer solitaire, but the standard pack of playing cards is an ancient and mysterious object.
Decks of cards have been used in China since the 600s, and gradually spread to Egypt. The standard deck of Egypt's Mamluk dynasty, with swords, batons, cups and coins, eventually traveled into Italy and later the rest of Europe.
While some countries like Italy and Greece still use the original Egyptian card suits, most decks have adopted the four French suits that evolved in the late 1400s. There's no exact origin for the designs, but each suit is connected to a distinct part of society:
- Clubs are associated with peasants, laborers and work.
- Diamonds are connected to merchants and wealth.
- Hearts are usually compared to the clergy, and the search for happiness and love.
- Spades are tied to warriors and also nobility.
The French also gave us another very familiar part of the modern deck: the aces.
While a "one" card has always existed, the French Revolution, which saw the French people overthrow their King and Queen, turned the lowly ace into a "trump" card that could defeat the King and Queen cards.
But it turns out even the number of cards in a deck has a special meaning.
Read the full story on Shared.com