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Friday, September 16, 2011

Ancient Greece

From "Dolls of Ancient Greece"

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 ."

I saw some of these in the National Archaeological Museumin Athens. I was nine, and I was so overcome, I cried. I knew them from my friend Mary Hillier's book, Dolls and Dollmakers, which I received for Christmas the year we went to Greece. The old Greeks had many dolls and idols, including Kore figures meant to commemorate young girls who had died, and also the bell-shaped dolls from Boeotia with the terracota stripes and clapper legs, 540-520 B.C. There are the Cycladic idols menioned in Barbar Pym's A Few Green Leaves, the classical theater figures, seated, with moveable limbs, and the jointed clay dolls, once painted, and made to be dressed. There are also miniature toys and dishes for them.

A fragment from Sappho dedicating her doll to Artemis when she came of age, something girls did:

"Artemis, despise not my doll's little purple cloak!"

See, also, the World Book Encyclopedia, article "Dolls," 1956, for a good, succinct history of ancient dolls.

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