3D Print and Explore the World’s Oldest Known Lock

Science Technology

One of the many things to appreciate about the maker movement is the tools, materials, techniques, and educational resources that it has helped make available to citizen scientists and technologists who want to get hands-on with history. And, with 3D printers being one of the available tools, the ability to re-create and experiment with all sorts of ancient artifacts and mechanisms is suddenly available to the masses.

Angus Deveson of Maker’s Muse is one such citizen scientist and relentless tinkerers who is using his 3D printer to explore and better understand his world. On his website and YouTube channel, he experiments with pushing the limits of his printers and their output, tests out the strength and integrity of various materials and designs, and he does thoughtful reviews of 3DP tech.

YouTube player

Angus also engages in a little remaking history, such as in this video where he researched and then 3D printed a replica of the first known locking mechanism. The Assyrian pin lock is the oldest known example of a locking device. It dates back to at least 704 B.C., with precursors to the device likely dating back to as early as 2000 B.C., there are just no known extant examples.

In the video, Angus demonstrates how the mechanism would have worked, using a cut-away 3D model he printed. Then he experiments with improvements he thought of and demonstrates how these would work using a new 3D printout. In the video description, he provides links to the print files for the historical lock design and to his riff on the design. He also discusses further refinements that could be done to make the lock more secure.

If you’re interested in learning more about ancient locks, here are the resources that Angus used:

Rethinking the Origins of the Lock
History of Keys – Who Invented Keys?
The Gates of Nineveh: A Gallery of Inventions

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.