Bone doll with articulated limbs

Period: Hellenistic

Date: late 4th or 3rd century B.C.

Culture: Greek

Medium: Bone

Dimensions: H.: 3 in. (7.6 cm)

Classifications: Miscellaneous-Bone, Ivory

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1911

Accession Number: 11.212.43


The popularity and significance of the kalathiskos dance is evident in this small articulated figurine made of bone. It represents a young girl with a small kalathos on her head; she wears a short pleated skirt and seems to be nude to the waist. We encounter this type of dress in a number of terracotta figurines beginning in the late fourth century B.C.
The arms and legs of the figurine are separately attached. However, the legs do not move easily, since they are fitted into holes beneath the skirt and are held in place by a wire. There is a hole on top of the head for suspension. Thus, when this figurine was shaken or hung, the arms would swing freely, whereas the legs would just slightly jiggle.
This small figurine is of rather crude workmanship. Facial features are merely indicated by incised lines. The arms seem a bit too long; this is probably due to the fact that the girl is represented holding crotala (castanets) that are not at all differentiated.
Apparently, some bone figurines were painted just like the terracotta statuettes: there are traces of pink paint on the grooves of the skirt and traces of red on the lips.
Very small and extremely fragile, this figurine certainly could not have been a toy, but rather an amulet or charm of some sort. It comes from a tomb at Tarentum that is dated to the third century B.C. by the other objects found with it. This particular figurine is very important because it seems to be the oldest preserved example of a Greek articulated figurine made of bone.