Paddle doll

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The front of a Middle Kingdom paddle doll dated approximately from 2030 B.C.E to 1802 B.C.E.

Paddle dolls are a type of ancient Egyptian female figurine that have been excavated from various tombs. Paddle dolls have been found in burials from the late Sixth Dynasty to the Thirteenth Dynasty; however, the period of their greatest popularity seems to have been the late Eleventh and early Twelfth Dynasties.[1] Paddle dolls are made of thin pieces of wood which depict the torso of a woman with thick “hair” represented by small beads strung along string.[2]

The back of a Middle Kingdom paddle doll dated approximately from 2030 B.C.E to 1802 B.C.E.

Egyptologists have determined that paddle dolls represent female members of the Theban khener-troupe of singers and dancers that served at religious ceremonies for the goddess Hathor and were perhaps appended by Nebhepetre to his royal mortuary cult at Deir el-Bahari.[3] This claim is supported by multiple lines of evidence.

  1. The location of where paddle dolls have been excavated serves as evidence to this claim. A large majority of paddle dolls have been found in Theban burials.[4] The keener-troupe of performers were from Thebes, which is where the cult of Hathor was located.
  2. The fact that the tattoos found on the body of the Priestess of Hathor and Sole Royal Ornament Amunet and the female bodies found in the same burial courtyard have been found on paddle dolls.[5] The exact type of diamond-shaped dot configurations found on the body were discovered in the same regions (shoulders, thighs, and/or buttocks) of various paddle dolls excavated from multiple tombs.[6]


Paddle dolls were often highly stylized and archaeologists currently suggest that the emphasis on the breast, hips, and pubic area – the sexual characteristics of the figure – symbolizes the sexual aspects of regeneration. This theory identifies the artifacts as fertility symbols placed in burials to guarantee eternal rebirth. Other theories assert that the dolls may have been placed in tombs to do jobs for the deceased in the Osirian afterworld, to protect the deceased or to provide entertainment. The latter hypothesis is bolstered by the burial of dolls often in groups with the accoutrements of dancers and musicians used by performing troupes (khener).[7] Some wooden dolls exhibit extensive wear, suggesting they may have been played with and thus represent toys.[7]

Several types of paddle dolls have been discovered in tombs in Egypt. The dolls are made of wood, flat, and constructed in a shape has led the form to be called a "paddle doll". The dolls seemingly follow a convention for the female figure, emphasizing the hips and hair. The wooden figures are usually painted with a geometric pattern of lines and dots. These patterns may reproduce tattoos or ritual scarring in female Egyptian culture of the period or represent clothing or jewelry. Some have hair composed of unfired clay and faience beads strung on flax fiber, sometimes interwoven with squares of straw to imitate gold hair rings.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bourriau, Janine; Quirke, Stephen (1988). "Pharaohs and Mortals: Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom". Cambridge University Press.
  2. ^ "Paddle Doll". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  3. ^ Morris, Ellen F. (2011). "Paddle Dolls and Performance". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 47: 71–103. ISSN 0065-9991.
  4. ^ Morris, Ellen F. (2011). "Paddle Dolls and Performance". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 47: 71–103. ISSN 0065-9991.
  5. ^ Morris, Ellen F. (2011). "Paddle Dolls and Performance". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 47: 71–103. ISSN 0065-9991.
  6. ^ Morris, Ellen F. (2011). "Paddle Dolls and Performance". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 47: 71–103. ISSN 0065-9991.
  7. ^ a b Morris EF (2011). "Paddle Dolls and Performance". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 47: 71–103.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bourriau, J., Egyptians and Mortals. Egyptian Art in the Middle Kingdom. Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  • Capel, A.K. and G.E.Markoe, eds.. Mistress of the House Mistress of Heaven. Women in Ancient Egypt. New York : Hudson Hills Press, 1997.
  • Hart, G., Ancient Egypt-2 (London, Dorling Kindersley in association with the British Museum, 1990)
  • Hayes, W.C., The Sceptre of Egypt. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1953.
  • Keimer, L., Remarques sur le Tatouage dans l'Egypte Ancienne. Cairo, 1948.