Painted wooden Egyptian doll, 2000 BC.—Courtesy of the trustees of the British Museum

Small-scale figure of a human being or animal, used especially as a child's plaything. The doll is perhaps humankind's oldest toy. Some ancient dolls may have served religious or magical functions—as do voodoo (see vodun) dolls in modern times. Dolls were buried in children's graves in Egypt, Greece, and Rome and in early Christian catacombs. In Europe dolls have been commercially manufactured since about the 16th century. Doll heads were made of wood, terra-cotta, alabaster, and wax, while the bodies were made of carved wood or leather stuffed with sawdust. In about 1820 glazed porcelain (Dresden) doll heads and unglazed bisque (ceramic) heads became popular. These were supplanted in the 20th century by molded plastic. In Japan, dolls are used as traditional festival figures. In India, elaborately dressed dolls were given to child brides by both Hindus and Muslims. Today both antique and modern dolls are often collected.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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