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The History of Locks and Keys: from the Ancient Egypt, Greek to the Modern Era

The History of Locks and Keys: from the Ancient Egypt, Greek to the Modern Era
calendarMay 29, 2024

Digital Lock Singapore - A solid assurance of access and safety is one of the most crucial pillars of human civilization. 

Such basic human needs have started the history of locks because people tried their best to protect and control access to their possessions. 

They may start by simply tying their belongings with ropes to keep them away from unwanted persons or conditions.

However, as time passes, people learn new technologies to create better means to protect and safeguard their possessions. 

Nowadays, many types of locks, such as deadbolts, electromagnetic locks, and smart locks technology, are widely used to keep people's belongings safe.
Unlocking the history of locks and keys is worth knowing because it can help us understand their transformation over time. 

Let’s delve into the following interesting information on lock history along with the renowned lock inventors you may never know before

Locks and Keys in the Ancient Era


Ever wonder when the first lock was invented? 

People invented locks a very long time ago, around six thousand years ago, since the discovery of the original ancient devices. 

The ruins of the Assyrian Capital, Nineveh, have historical value because they are where humans found the ancient wooden pinlock. 

Let’s look at the following ancient lock history to understand the fundamental concept of locks and keys in early life.


The History of Locks in Egypt and the Mesopotamian Era


Despite its simplicity, the lock is effective, as it uses a large bolt to safeguard the door. 

Pin tumbler locks consist of two parts: a wooden post and a wooden bolt. When someone shuts the door, wooden pins will fall into the holes, making sure the door is tightly secured.

There is a large wooden key similar to a toothbrush lifting a set of wooden pins.  Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians treasured such a pin lock because they could use it to safeguard their religious significance’s doors and valuables.
Such a lock proved to be incredibly handy and reliable for a lot of people back then. Moreover, it helped them feel more secure without having any stationed guards in front of their doors.

Khorsabad's palace ruins were the site of discovering one of the earliest pinlocks in Mosul, Iraq. Norway, Japan, and the Faroe Islands are examples of locations where people could find similar locks. 

It became the most trusted door lock in that era. The drawback of this key is its fragility, which is easily broken owing to the substance.

The History of Locks in the Greek Era


We should thank the Greeks for their contributions to the history of locks and keys, as they redesigned locks into a better device. The key is more robust than the Egyptian since it is completely made of iron.

There is a sickle-shaped iron key to move the bolt. One should insert the key into a hole in the door and then turn it so it will engage the bolt before drawing it back. 

Even though Greek locks were more durable than Egyptian ones, they were proven to be very insecure. 

Thus, using more advanced technologies, the Roman Empire improved its design.

Locks and Keys in the Ancient Roman Empire


The history of locks and keys is important due to the advancements made by the Roman Empire over ancient Egyptian and Greek locks. 

The Romans came up with a special lock named warded lock that was really safe and sturdy, thanks to its advanced mechanism design and strong material. 

Between 870 and 900 BC, it began to increase protection when they choose using metal such as brass and iron instead of wood. Additionally, metal materials have a lower risk of erosion.

A certain shape of protrusions within the Romanian wards opens a way for the keys to pass through. This lock was revolutionary in technology because it needed a matching key. As a result, no ordinary key will be able to open the lock.

Padlocks with a U-shaped latch were phenomenal since they were the Romans’ ongoing inventions in the history of padlocks. However, we can also find similar locks made by the Chinese in the same era. 

Subsequently, the Romans devised a more compact lock, enabling them to carry the key in the shape of a ring.

Wealthy Romans safeguarded their prized possessions, including currency and jewelry, within secured chests, utilizing a ring to unlock these containers.

The small locks and key rings define the wearer's status as a wealthy man because they could lock their valuables that way. Moreover, keeping the key close instills a heightened sense of security for the owner. 

People used these Roman wards for centuries to safeguard their belongings even after the Roman Empire’s fall.


Locks and Keys in the Dark and Middle Ages Era

With technological advancements, lock and key mechanisms and design have evolved considerably during the Middle Ages.

Notable improvements included the integration of pivoting tumblers and the introduction of more intricate wards in the locking system. 

Prominent Germany's Nuremberg is famous for its metal locks, which were made by many workers.


Gothic Locks

During this period, they focused on creating visually appealing locks by embellishing the exteriors, including Gothic ones. These locks are unique due to their different design from the 14th-century locks and keys. 

This lock's main characteristic includes a keyhole with a V pattern around it and is decorated with an aesthetic greenery design. 

This lock surpasses the highest workmanship standards of locksmiths in the era. It often comes with small figurines and tracery patterns, including the greenery ones. 

A Gothic lock is unique in that people can see the mechanism through it. A person requires several consecutive keys to open it. 

Regrettably, the lock’s security features remained unchanged despite their striking and contemporary appearance. Thus, experienced thieves found that unlocking the Gothic lock mechanism was a piece of cake. 

Robert Barron introduced a significant improvement by creating a dual-action tumbler lock in 1778.

The Barron lock requires the homeowner to lift the levers to varying heights with the key to shift the bolt.


Related Content : Unlocking Security: Exploring the Ultimate Advantages of Digital Locks

Locks and Keys in the Renaissance Era

A few renowned locksmiths have upgraded the mechanism of the Barron lock since it was first created. Here are some of those well-known locksmiths:

Jeremiah Chubb

In 1818, Jeremiah Chubb added a retention spring to the baron lock to clasp and hold the lever in case it was raised too high. Such a mechanism provides additional security by notifying the owner when it is unlocked. 

Today, Chubb's inventions undeniably have an important role in the history of door locks. With their recognized brand, many households around the world rely on Chubb for their home security.

Joseph Bramah

Joseph Bramah is a true inventor because of his many inventions, such as a working planner,  a sharpener for quill pens, a device for pumping beer, and so on. 

In 1784, he patented his unpickable safety lock as a way to make him a renowned inventor. 

Bamah was lucky to have an eminent assistant, Henry Maudslay because Henry helped him create his unique lock.
The Lock keys are circular in shape with precise notches for manipulating metal discs to release locks. 

Bamah company continues to sell and utilize its special locks with extremely secure mechanisms.

Linus Yale, Sr. and Linus Yale, Jr.

Linus Yale, Sr. is a renowned locksmith due to his 1948 invention known as the modern pin tumbler lock. His son shares the same capability because he improved his father’s design using a flat key with a saw-like edge. 

This design is innovative since it lays the groundwork for modern lock innovations. 
Yale remains one of the world's most prominent locks and keys companies. Therefore, a lot of homeowners have trusted various Yale products as a part of their home security systems until now.

Samuel Segal

Being an ex-policeman did not stop Segal from becoming an inventor, so he invented his Jimmy-proof locks in 1816. He has held his patents for more than twenty-five years. 

James Sargent

In 1857, James Sargent came up with a groundbreaking invention: the lock with a combination key. This invention quickly became famous and played a significant role in the history of locks and keys as many widely embraced and used it.
The locks were very famous at that time since the US Treasury Department and many manufacturers rely their valuables on this particular lock. 

The time lock mechanism is his other incredible invention because it became the early predecessor for modern bank vaults.

Harry Soref

Soref patented his improved padlock while establishing his Master Lock Company in 1921. He made a strong yet cheap padlock, the case of which is made of layers of metal similar to a bank vault door. 

He chose laminated steel for his locks, which is relatively cheap yet sturdy.

The Future Innovations of Locks and Keys

The history of locks continues because it has been evolving until now. Thanks to previous technological innovations and advancements, we can have a more secure and protected life with modern locks and keys. 

These modern security systems have plenty to offer, so people can choose one that suits their needs best.

Electromagnetism Locks

Modern security systems such as keyless combinations, electromagnetic locks, and digitized and fingerprint locks have become common in our daily lives. 

Summer Irving Saphirstein was the man behind the history of magnetic locks because he invented his first electromagnetic locks with a solenoid in 1969.

Smart Technology

With modern locks, you get the best of both worlds - ease of use and heightened security. No more twisting keys in locks; now we can open the car door with a button. 

Due to the keyless security system, we also do not have to worry about our belongings when entering the house.

As IoT technology and smart home systems continue to evolve, digital locks are gaining popularity due to their practicality and efficiency. 

These locks allow owners to easily control and monitor access to their facilities comfortably. Even when they're away, they can rely on enhanced and integrated systems to keep an eye on their premises.

Keyless Locks

We have been able to grant trusted relatives and friends access to our property since the history of keycard locks started. No more worrying about the inconvenience of carrying, misplacing, or forgetting your keys. 

With smartphone access, you can leave those worries behind.

However, such a modern lock has its drawbacks, especially because it is costly while the operation and setup are complicated. 

Moreover, people are still attached to traditional home security systems and avoid modern ones.

Latest Innovation

Biometric security systems such as face and finger recognition have become more common in our society. Yet, the technology and the evolutions of locks and keys are still developing. 

There might be something new that we have never imagined before due to rapid technological advancement. 

However, the ultimate goal of this home security system is to make humans feel more secure and safer while providing them with convenient lives.


Best Conclusion

The form of locks and keys keeps on evolving but still has the same function: offering human security and peace of mind. More advancements in home security systems will continue to develop, including using AI to enhance facial recognition accuracy. 

More advanced encryption will help protect the security systems from hacking. Using biometric systems is also an added fortification to home security systems. All of this advancement is something beyond the reach of the Egyptian or Romanian locksmiths. 

Yet, they are the ones who provide the groundbreaking concept so we can achieve our current advanced locks and keys.
Locks and keys are important in society because people need to secure their belongings. So, let us remember the history of locks since they help us evolve and keep on evolving to create a better and more protected security system.

If you need help determining which security systems to protect your home, family, and properties, visit for more info about modern and digitized locks. 

You will find the perfect lock and key collection in the wide array of advanced collections for your best needs.





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