Different types of Roman keys. The artifacts are in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
Thanks to the excavations carried out in Pompeii and Herculaneum scientists could better understand the everyday life of ancient Romans. Houses preserved in volcanic ash and their decor allowed us to see many mechanisms and objects used in antiquity. In the houses, there were wooden chests or cabinets, which sometimes had locks to protect jewellery or other valuables from thieves. Despite the catastrophe of 79 CE, many chests still contained their contents when discovered.
Ancient Romans are certainly the first civilization to use keys that are very similar to modern ones. It is made of bronze or iron, sometimes a combination of them; strong wood or bone was also used. The keys to the locks were small, light and comfortable to grip. Interestingly, the Romans came up with an innovation, a combination of a ring and a key. This type of key was used for all kinds of small jewellery chests.