The Early History of the Lock

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History buffs rejoice, there is a history of locks and it is quite a rich and colorful one! There will be no need to turn on any of your cable television stations, show up on time for any classes and I promise, no tests will be required of you after reading. Just sit back, relax, read and enjoy a brief look at the early History of the Lock. The data that exists (there is no written record of who invented the first locks) shows that different societies developed locks separately, and not as a trait picked up through trade and travel.

From the evidence gathered thus far the oldest known locks come from the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, and through the discovery an Egyptian lock, what has come to be recognized as the oldest known lock, in Persia in 1842 in the ruins of the palace of Emperor Sargon II it shows that it was reliant on the same principle of pin tumbler that is still in use to this very day! This lock consisted of three parts, a vertical beam with tumblers, a wood crossbeam and a wooden key much larger than those seen today.

While grand in design many of the Roman locks are no longer in existence today since the main metal used (iron) rust and corrodes, thereby erasing most of them from the records of time. Many of the keys are still in existence today since they were fashioned as rings or necklaces due to clothing not having pockets in these times. Using notched bolt work inside iron cases the Romans also utilized keys of bronze and iron. As with locks on older homes still in use today one type of Roman lock was the warded bit key lock. Another type of Roman lock is the spring loaded bolt. During times of great trade within the Roman Empire, especially during the time of Julius Caesar, locks were in high demand by the more successful politicians and merchants.

Similar to the Romans, the Greek versions of locks were generally secured with ropes tied in elaborate knots. While not providing the utmost in security and most being easy to overcome due to their simplicity, these creatively tied knots, a notched bolt work, were operated by using the blade of an iron sickle shaped key (close to twelve inches in length) and inserting it into the key slot, turning the key one hundred and eighty degrees. These locks were simple to defeat by using various different sized keys. If extra security were required the archaeological evidence shows that a bolt was used and secured from the inside.

There is also one other nation credited with invention of locks, the Chinese. While the Romans have been thought to be the inventors of the padlock, the Chinese seem to have invented their own independently at or around the same time in history.

While locks may not be at the forefront of archaeological thought or hobby for most, we do see that the lock and locksmith has a rich and grand history!