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Friday, May 29, 2020

Figurines with articulated limbs: Children's toys or adult apotropaic objects?

Terracotta figurines with articulated limbs are often described as dolls or children’s toys, and are sometimes thought to have been dressed in clothes. While one cannot simply dismiss these assumptions, it must be pointed out that this hypothesis is based on an inaccurate reading of an ancient epigram, which was originally interpreted to say that a girl named Timareta dedicated to the goddess (at a sanctuary) her dolls and their dresses. However, more recently it has been convincingly argued that she in fact dedicated her hair and her own clothing. Another point to be made against the figurines being play things is that they are too fragile to be constantly handled by children. The fact that these “dolls” are often discovered in the graves of adults indicates their possible chthonic connection or apotropaic function. In addition, the movement these figurines were capable of when swinging, as well as the clanking noise they produced, might have made them attractive charms. - The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Terracotta jointed doll thought to represent a ritual dancer Corinthian Greek 5th century BCE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Bone figurine with articulated limbs, Greek, Late 4th or 3rd century BCE at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ivory doll found in female burial along the Via Cassia near La Giustiniana Roman 2nd century CE photographed at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, Italy

Ivory doll Ivory doll found in female burial Roman 2nd century CE at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, Italy

Ivory jointed doll found in a female's sarcophagus in Tivoli, Italy Roman 2nd century CE photographed at the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, Italy

Segmented Roman bone dolls, 275-300 CE photographed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, California.

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