Rag doll

Roman, 1st-5th century AD
Made in Egypt

A linen doll, filled with rags and papyrus

This doll is fairly well-proportioned, and has a head and a body. The arms are made from a long roll of linen attached at the back. The doll is made of made of coarse linen and is stuffed with rags and pieces of papyrus. Coloured wool, now faded, was applied to parts of the face and body. The sex of the doll is unclear, although the presence of a small blue glass bead attached to the proper left side of the head suggests a hair ornament and therefore that it is probably intended to be female. As well as dolls, children had a wide range of toys and playthings, such as toy animals, soldiers, doll's houses with miniature furniture, spinning tops, hoops and marbles.

In the ancient world dolls were usually made of rags, wood, bone or fired clay, and ranged from simple home-made playthings such as this example to miniature works of art, with finely worked features and jointed bodies. There is no reason why dolls should not have been as popular in the Roman period as they are now, but relatively few have survived because of the perishable nature of their materials. This doll survived as a result of the very dry conditions in parts of Egypt, which helped to preserve organic artefacts of all types, from sandals, furniture and baskets to brushes, boxes and even hairpieces.

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More information


, Jouer dans lAntiquité (Marseille, Musées de Marseille, 1992)


Height: 19.000 cm

Museum number

GR 1905.10-21.13


Gift of the Egypt Exploration Fund


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