Artifact Spotlight — Iron Skeleton Key

Kristi Nichols, Director of Archaeology, Collections and Historical Research
August 12, 2019
Hand holding what appears to be a corroded iron key artifact

This skeleton key was recovered from approximately 50 cm below the surface inside the southern portion of the Long Barrack. The key was made of an iron metal, and is highly rusted and corroded.

Wooded locks and keys appear to have been invented approximately 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt. Bronze and iron versions were developed during Roman times and were much sturdier. The skeleton key designed was used from Roman times up until the 1940s.

Although the style of keys we use most often today was invented during the mid-1800s, the flat key did not become popular until after WWII. This skeleton key does not provide any details that could give a specific date of use, but the archaeologists will compare it to the dates associated with other artifacts recovered from the excavation level to try to identify an approximate date.