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date: 07 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

When is a toy not a toy? The material culture of childhood in the past is notoriously difficult to locate but is most often identified in terms of playthings. This chapter looks at the problems of examining this body of material in terms of the life and death of the child. Dolls and miniatures, in particular, are considered because they appear to have a fascination for the modern reader and museum visitor. In funerary contexts these items have multiple possible meanings: Do they have a ritual significance? Are they placed in the grave by loving parents as representative of the lost child or the loss of the potential adult? Were they toys played with in life by the deceased child? None of these interpretations are mutually exclusive, but their range highlights the complexity of examining the material culture of childhood.

Keywords: Amulets, baby, babies, baby doll, balls, board games, dolls, games, gender roles, grave goods, material culture, play, toys

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