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from Newstead, Roxburghshire

Postcard of Key.
© National Museums Scotland


This iron key was found during excavations at the site of the Roman fort at Newstead in Roxburghshire. The key is a type sometimes termed a lift-key. It was used sometime between 80 and 180 AD.

The key worked with a simple tumbler lock, where the key passed through the keyhole and was moved until the teeth fit into the holes, lifting the tumblers clear of the bolt. This key was probably T-shaped at the bottom, one prong having broken off.

Concern with security is nothing new. The Romans built doors with handles, hooks and levers. Complicated lock and key mechanisms were also fitted to doors and chests, as evidenced by the large number of keys which have been found.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-037-266-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  X.FRA 1082
Date: Between 80 and 180 AD
Material: Iron
Who: Newstead Collection
Where: Scotland, Roxburghshire, Melrose, Newstead
Description: Iron key from Newstead
  • Curle, J. A Roman frontier post and its people: the fort of Newstead. Glasgow: MacLehose, 1911, Pl. LXXVIII, 3. 
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