Paddle Dolls and Performance in Ancient Egypt

Morris, Ellen F.

Paddle Dolls have been interpreted variously as concubines for the dead, as children’s toys, or as figurines embodying the concept of fertility and rebirth. This article argues on the basis of eight lines of evidence that they were representations of specific living women, namely the Late Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom khener-dancers of Hathor at Deir el-Bahari. Paddle dolls have been recovered from secure archaeological contexts at very few other sites and only in small numbers, but they are frequently found at Asasif. Their tattoos resemble those found on women buried in the precinct of the mortuary temple. Likewise, their bright, patterned outfits are strikingly similar to those of one particular Theben khener-troupe of Hathor depicted in the tomb of Kenamun (TT 93). The figurines were often interred in groups, and these groups could include a young girl figurine, just as khener-troupes often included girl trainees. The figurines are also found in statistically significant numbers with clappers, harps, and mirrors, all equipment typical of khener-women. The shape of the figurines, it is argued, consciously echoes that of a menat-counterpoise, the sacred fetish of Hathor, and it is suggested that the marked emphasis on the pubic triangle is due to the role of the khener-women in reinvigorating the dead king, which they undertook in the same manner as Hathor had revived her own father, the god-king Re, in the "Contendings of Horus and Seth." It is secondarily argued that virtually all of these lines of evidence also apply to the truncated female figurines typical of the Twelfth Dynasty.

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Also Published In

Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt

More About This Work

Academic Units
Classics and Ancient Studies (Barnard College)
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt
Published Here
June 14, 2018