Roman keys were made mostly from bronze or iron and are widely collected Roman antiquities for sale. Most locks were warded, meaning that they had metal wards or fingers within the lock that had to exactly match the cut out areas of the key. The key was inserted into the lock and if the key could be turned without some portion of it coming up against the wards, it could make contact with the lock's bolt and move it to unlock. This technology was quite advanced for the time.
There were several types of Roman keys. One was the general door key with teeth as described above which look similar to a modern key. Another type were latch lifters, which would lift a latch and allow it to be moved for easy entry into rooms that had items that needed to be safeguarded.
Another common type were worn as jewellery, but with a practical purpose. This was the key ring - a combination ring and small key. The owner could wear the key to avoid losing it. The clothes worn by early Romans had no pockets, so the only options for keeping small objects from getting lost were to keep them in a purse or wear them on one's person.
Condition: Excellent with lovely patination.
Dimensions: Length 65mm.
Provenance: Ex. private collection, UK; acquired at UK auction house.