The oldest key-operated lock still in existence was found in the citadel of King Sargon II. The citadel was built in the Assyrian capital of Khorsabad in the late 8th century BCE. Similar locks are shown in Egyptian art dating from about 2000 BCE. These large wooden locks had bolts with pegs that served as simple pin-tumblers. A matching wooden key raised the tumblers and released the bolt.




The ancient Romans developed the first warded locks, which remained the most common locks until the 19th century. These locks have several fixed ridges or obstacles called wards that stop the wrong key from operating the lock. When a person inserts the correct key, the key fits past the wards and moves a spring inside the lock. The spring is attached to a bolt or shackle – the curved part of a padlock’s body; and when the spring moves the bolt or shackle slides to a locked or unlocked position.

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