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Published on Mar 25, 2015
Vivant Denon was a talented pornographer, prolific looter and perhaps the most eloquent European to bear witness to the antiquities of Egypt. His journal also introduced the world to the earliest known lock. It was a rudimentary pin lock, carved into a wall at the Palace of Ma'at. His offhand proclamation that the lock was "4000 years old" has been oft-cited by encyclopedias, lock manufacturers, and even scholars. However, recently there has been strong evidence emerging to place its invention elsewhere, and suggest a more precise, if somewhat broad window in which the first lock entered the world. Relying on the efforts of some amazing archaeologists and linguists, I propose that that the first key-based locks originated in Mesopotamia between 2500 & 1800 BCE. Redefining the origin of the lock does more than settle (or reignite) a debate in a niche community. The Mesopotamian theory provides a window into the nature of security's role in society. By following the lock back to its more primitive technological ancestors, we can begin to build a theory for not just how, but why this ubiquitous object came into existence in every society the world has known.