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date: 15 April 2024


The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
Gary VikanGary Vikan

Two kinds of key-lock systems, sliding and turning, were used in Byz. The sliding key-lock system was the earlier and mechanically more complex. Its distinguishing feature is a bit composed of raised teeth attached at right-angles to a rectangular shaft. The bit is passed in a rotating motion through the lower extremity of an L-shaped hole in the lock plate. It is then raised until its projecting teeth displace from the bolt a series of pins or tumblers held in place by a spring. Once engaged in the perforations, the key is used to draw the bolt along horizontally, out of its seating. A high level of security was afforded by the fact that only a bit with teeth precisely matching the perforations in the bolt could be raised into those holes and thereby force out the restraining pins. Such locks were esp. preferred and popularized by the Romans, with whom they are customarily associated. That they remained in use in Constantinople at least until the 6th C. is clear from the marble doors in the South Gallery of Hagia ... ...

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