Primary Source

Ivory Doll

Photo of ivory doll found in a grave


This finely carved ivory doll with moveable arms and legs was found in the grave of a girl approximately five years of age in Tarragona, Spain, a port city south of Barcelona. It dates to the 3rd or 4th century CE. The girl's skeleton was adorned with a gold thread around the neck and along its length, probably a border on her burial dress. The doll is well proportioned, with detailed carving of the face and an elaborate hairstyle. The doll's limbs are jointed at the shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees, and could have assumed many positions for active play. Found in 1927, this child's grave was one of only 12 among more than 2,000 graves in the necropolis that contained funerary artifacts. Justinian law of the period restricted the placing of offerings in graves to prevent the desecration of graves by robbers. The unusual presence of the doll may indicate that the child was especially dear to her family, or very attached to the doll in life.


Ivory doll [MNAT(P)12906], from the Early Christian Necropolis (Necròpolis Paleocristiana), Museu Nacional Arquelogic de Tarragona (Spain), (accessed March 5, 2009).

How to Cite This Source

"Ivory Doll," in World History Commons, [accessed December 8, 2023]