With close to a million objects in the American Numismatic Society’s collections, the curatorial team occasionally comes across items that are mysteries to us. This series will feature some of these objects in the hopes that the collective wisdom of our readers can help us to identify and learn more about them.
Our first selection is a bronze key of indeterminate age and culture. It has no markings, an overall length of 26mm, and weighs 13.6 grams.
Mystery Solved! Thanks to commenter Forbes who notes below:
Byzantine Folding Key, Circa 5th – 6th Century.
This type of key, commonly used during the Byzantine period, could be easily carried, an important feature at a time when clothes had no pockets. The hoop of the key fits like a finger ring, and the short barrel can be folded into the palm of the hand. Unlike the teeth on modern keys, the slotted holes on this example are purely decorative, while the small crosses were intended to protect the owner’s possessions.
The shaft of the key has a hole through which the ring fits, allowing it swing freely.
What, if any, is the significance of the design of the tip?
Have an idea about what this might be? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line here.