Painted wooden paddle doll with mud beads for hair

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

Female figurines were included in burials from the Predynastic period onwards. They were often highly stylized, emphasizing the sexual characteristic of the figure, such as the breast, hips and pubic area.In the past, there have been two opposing interpretations of these figurines. One argues that they should be interpreted as dolls, ignoring the emphasis placed on their female attributes. The other recognizes only these features, and the figurines are seen as 'concubine figures', intended to provide sexual gratification in the Afterlife. This interpretation fails to take account of the fact that the figures appear in the burials of women as well as men. The current opinion about these figures is that they were representations of human fertility. They were placed in burials to guarantee eternal rebirth, symbolizing the sexual aspects of regeneration.This type of female figurine was placed in burials of the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC) in Thebes. Its shape has led it to be called a 'paddle doll' and follows the convention for this type of female figure, emphasizing the hips and hair. The body is often painted with a colourful geometric design to represent the dress and sometimes the jewellery of the woman.

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  • Title: Painted wooden paddle doll with mud beads for hair
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 19.10cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Registration number: 1837,0413.46
  • Place: Found/Acquired Egypt
  • Period/culture: First Intermediate; Middle Kingdom
  • Material: wood; mud
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Athanasi, Giovanni d'