Doll, 5th century B.C., Terracotta
13.5 cm (5 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Dolls were common throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. In the 500s B.C., Greek artisans began to produce a distinctive form of terracotta doll with separately-made arms and legs, which were attached with string. Unlike today's baby-dolls, these dolls always represent adult women. They have short tunics painted on their torso and this example retains traces of red paint. This doll has simple mitten-shaped hands, but many others carry krotala or castanet-like instruments.
Archaeologists find these jointed terracotta dolls in children's graves and in religious sanctuaries. Ancient writers suggest that, just before their marriage, girls would dedicate dolls and other toys to various goddesses. Some scholars, however, think that these terracotta dolls were not the toys referred to by the writers. They think that this doll's primary purpose was religious. The dolls would have been hung as charms, with the movement and noise of their swinging arms and legs meant to scare off evil spirits. Their placement in graves and sanctuaries would have been connected with this protective role.