Museum of Ancient Inventions: Toys

Toys, Egypt, 1100 BCE

Many fine examples of wooden and clay mechanical string toys have been found in the tombs of Ancient Egypt. The original of this particular wooden crocodile is believed to be from 1100 BCE and is on exhibit at the East Berlin Museum. Some anthropologists believe these “toys” to be funerary objects placed in tombs to protect people in their next lives. The crocodile was a creature feared by many Egyptians and was commonly mummified and used to symbolize the god Sebek. The paddle doll, also from Ancient Egypt, is on display in the British Museum. The doll’s hair is of sun-baked clay strung on flax thread. The doll’s body is of wood and decorated with fertility motifs common to that era.

There are also many great examples in the Metropolitan Museum in NY. In 1887, the British archeologist Flinders Petrie discovered an Egyptian doll factory dating to 1800 BCE.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Lori-Ann Austin

To make the crocodile, I started with a piece of scrap pine, although the Ancient Egyptians would have used cedar imported from Cypress. I sketched the crocodile onto the wood and carved it using a modern chisel, not unlike the method originally used. The crocodile is approximately 5 inches long and 2 inches high. The mouth of the crocodile is hinged and a linen string is tied through the snout, which allows the mouth to open and close.

I started this doll by drawing a template and tracing it onto a piece of pine, which I cut on the band saw. To make the head and beads for the hair I used quick drying clay. I made an attempt to use flax thread I had spun myself but found I was too inexperienced a spinner to produce thread strong enough for this project, so I used store-bought quilting thread.


Casson, Lionel. Ancient Egypt. New York: Time, Inc. 1965

Erman, Adolf. Life in Ancient Egypt.(Translated: H.M. Tirad) New York: Mac

Millian&Co., 1894 Kemp, Barry J. Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization.

New York: Routledge, 1989 Mertz Barbara. Red Land, Black Land. New York:

Coward-McCann, Inc.,1966

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Ancient History
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