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Child play

Sources in formal art and burial are ambiguous: where apparent games are depicted, they are highly idealised, and may relate to the theme of fertility, rather than to the leisure of children. Note however, the difficulties in distinguishing between child play and the emphasis on fertility: ‘toys’ may be used to introduce children to gender roles (see below), and games by children might include the same implicit didactic functions.

Gaming boards belong to the area of leisure for adults, rather than for children, according to depictions in formal art.

Fertility figurines and the question of dolls

High infant and maternal mortality rates accompanied the ubiquity of the theme of fertility and safe birth in the iconographic archaeological record. However, explicit ancient labels for small-scale female images are rare, and figurines have often been identified as dolls. Consider late Middle Kingdom examples from Lahun.

Note the conclusion reached by Joan Reilly from the evidence of female figurines depicted on tomb stones of young girls in 5th-4th century BC Athens: she compared terracotta figurines, often called dolls, and proposed to interpret the figurines as anatomical votives intended to secure good health for the girl, and specifically to secure menarche (Reilly 1997)

Quirke 1998 (for an initial treatment of Middle Kingdom evidence from Lahun and Egyptian fortresses in Nubia)


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