Why Girls Played With Dolls in the Roman Empire

These ivory dolls come from the grave of a young Roman girl. The grave is dated to the third century and comes from Ljubljana. Originally have the dolls were painted in vivid colours.
Ivory dolls were very expensive items as they were normally made from cheaper material such as clay, wood, bone or wax. These dolls are extremely rare finds.
It was quite common for young girls in Rome to play with these dolls, but they were sacrificed to a god(dess) before marriage. If they are found in graves, it is mostly that of a young girl who died before their wedding day.


Classic scholars like Fanny Dolansky think that “these toys carried strong messages about girls’ expected roles in society. Like modern Barbies, they mirrored the body ideals of Roman times, in this case small breasts and wide hips. Because they resembled adult women, they were likely intended to help young girls contemplate their future as wives and mothers.

Dolls also wore miniature rings, jewels, and sometimes even removable clothing, which young girls might have used to learn about their own bodies and to practice dressing themselves...”