Roulette Checkmate

Dolls and the Art of Ancient Greece

Although dolls are the oldest and perhaps most beloved toys of all eras few remain from prehistoric times. It is believed that in the golden era of Greek civilization, dolls developed out of a figure that had previously been an idol or a fertility symbol. In many cases it seems that when the figure was no longer needed for worship that it was given to a child as a toy. Most experts agree that the most important criterion for labeling a figure as a toy are its movable limbs.

Ancient Greeks used the tern ‘kore’, literally little girl, and applied it
to a doll. Dolls were made of rags, wood, wax, ivory, and terra cotta. Many dolls had moveable limbs that were jointed. At marriage the Greek girls dedicated their dolls to Artemis. It was believed that this dedication would assist with their fertility during marriage. If they died before marriage their dolls were buried with them. A dagus was a wax doll or puppet used in magic rites.

In Ancient Greece, these dolls known also as daidala were not only
children’s toys but also had a religious significance, as is evident from the religious symbols depicted on them. Such references exist from the days of Homer and Hesiod. In the course of time the religious aspect slowly disappeared.

Most dolls found in the tombs of children were very simple creations. Often they were made from such materials as clay, rags, wood, or bone. Some of the more unique dolls were made with ivory or wax. The main goal was to make the doll as “lifelike” as possible. That ideal lead to the creation of dolls, dating back to 600 B.C., with movable limbs and removable garments



  • <ahref=””>PLAYING AND PLAYTHINGS,Marc WELLENS – Co-director of the Speelgoedmuseum, Mechelen, Belgium

The use of Dolls to Illustrate Topics Related to the Women of Ancient

Since copying images related to the woman of ancient Greece either involves preempting the use of a good book or a museum it was decided not to illustrate this site with such images. Links are provided to other sites that seem to have the rights to those images. But this left the visualization of the material on this site very bare. At first sketches were tried. Lack of good models seemed a
handicap here and manikins were constructed. It was quickly realized that joints would be required for the manikins to be generally useful as models. In the thrift store it was noted that dolls were available with joints. These seemed like possiblilties for models. The dolls found in thrift stores are the cast-offs of children. It is very hard to disguise the dolls so that the viewers see anything besides a recollection of their youth. Further efforts to modify the dolls to the culture of Greece, with its different standard of nudity and sexuality seemed to horrify the viewers with thoughts of their youth being somehow perverted. Thus the images seemed to distract the viewers from the historical message of the images. In the thrift store it was noted that dolls were available with joints. At first 18″ dolls were used and then 36″ dolls. But it was found that smaller dolls had better joints. For a long time the 11.5″ dolls and the Action figures were used but difficulties arose. Eyelashes seemed desirable and feet that accommodated different type of shoes were desirable. The fashion dolls have better flexibility and more accurate features so these are now being used.

A video clip dealing with these problems is at: clickhere. It is unfortunate that this video glorifies the tintalation that the dolls can produce and not the history that is attempted.

Dolls compared to ancient Greek statuary

The dolls are fairly life-like but some difficulties can be noted. On the female doll the main problem is the size of the head. The shape of the breasts is as though they were confined to a brassiere. The realism of the doll can be improved by adding pubic hair. Pubic hair is often not necessary because the Greek ladies singed it off. One has to then make a decision as to whether the external genitalia will be visible and whether they should be included or whether it should be excluded. The art of ancient Greece included a lot more public nudity than is experienced in our culture.

One difficulty with the 11.5″ doll is that it is so common that it will
quickly be recognized as a doll from certain play contexts. Many little girls like these dolls that they play with by dressing and undressing them. The clothing that they wear is associated with fun activities and superficial values. These dolls are commonly criticized for instilling in the girls superficiality and an emphasis on appearance. Some people think that the skinny look of the dolls fosters anorexia and bulimia. Others think that the shape of the breasts on the dolls encourages the girls to get silicone implants. The
hope is that the use of the fashion dolls to model ancient Greek women in a serious role serves to counter many of these difficulties. One problem that has been noted with the 11.5″ dolls is that they are rarely used for role-play situations. It is believed that the use of dolls in this environment should enhance role-play environment and develop a better relation between dolls and girls. One strange observation that can be made is that the 11.5 inch dolls have breasts that are the shape of a young girl who has little need to wear a supporting garment. Yet such supporting garments are readily available for these dolls. The 16″ dolls have more developed breasts that commonly need a supporting garment. Yet the breasts are formed as though they are supported an no supporting garments seem to be available.

The 16-inch dolls conform to the 1/4 scale. Construction of clothing,
furniture and environments for these dolls involves considerable less time and expense than full-scale items. Yet they provide a 3-dimensionality which is quite helpful for visualization. They seem to be an asset to the site.

I have a frightening story to tell. I have wanted to take a picture of
Hyacinth bathing in the Nile River for the newest story that I have Nile River. She is at a temple so she can do this by simply walking down awritten. I prepared Hyacinth by putting on a slave collar and I found the doll that I wanted to lead her. In the story Hyacinth is told to take a bath in the flight of stairs into the water. I believe there are temples like this on the Nile with Similar landings. So I walked down to the Cuyahoga River with two dolls, two brass candlesticks and my camera. Now the river is much lower and rocks are exposed. When I walked on the rocks I found the damp ones to be very slippery.
I noticed a concrete block that I could use for a platform and up the river was a spot where I could put it in the water. I put the dolls down and placed the concrete block like a step.

Then I placed the two candlesticks so they would look like columns. Next I leaned the clothed doll up against one of the candlesticks. Then I tried to get Hyacinth to swim in the water. She couldn’t because the water was rushing by too fast. Then the frightening thing happened. The clothed doll fell into the water. The water caught her and shot her down stream. I tried to keep up with
her but the rocks were very slippery. So pretty soon she was 20 feet ahead. I was able to run fast to catch up but I lost sight of her. When I got to a ledge where the water was going slower I saw that she was coming right next to the shore. I tried to reach the water but it was too far. So I shimmied down headfirst right as the doll cam by and I grabbed her. Whew! But it was not so easy to shimmy back up because the rocks were slippery. It was at this point that I almost slipped into the rushing water and drowned. Fortunately I found a
spot that held and I did sort of a one handed push-up to get back on the bank. The doll seemed very appreciative at least that is how I then interpreted her usually smiley expression. I have a picture of her recovering on the bank. I also got pictures of Hyacinth twiddling her toes in the Nile.