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A doll is a model typically of a human or humanoid character, often used as a toy for children. Dolls have also been used in traditional religious rituals throughout the world. Traditional dolls made of materials such as clay and wood are found in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe. The earliest documented dolls go back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. They have been made as crude, rudimentary playthings as well as elaborate art. Modern doll manufacturing has its roots in Germany, from the 15th century. With industrialization and new materials such as porcelain and plastic, dolls were increasingly mass-produced. During the 20th century, dolls became increasingly popular as collectibles.
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The earliest dolls were made from available materials such as clay, stone, wood, bone, ivory, leather, or wax. Archaeological evidence places dolls as the foremost candidate for the oldest known toy. Wooden paddle dolls have been found in Egyptian tombs dating to as early as the 21st century BC. Dolls with movable limbs and removable clothing date back to at least 200 BC. Archaeologists have discovered Greek dolls made of clay and articulated at the hips and shoulders. Rag dolls and stuffed animals were probably also popular, but no known examples of these have survived to the present day. Stories from ancient Greece around 100 AD show that dolls were used by little girls as playthings. In ancient Rome, dolls were made of clay, wood or ivory. Dolls have been found in the graves of Roman children. Like children today, the younger members of Roman civilization would have dressed their dolls according to the latest fashions. In Greece and Rome, it was customary for boys to dedicate their toys to the gods when they reached puberty and for girls to dedicate their toys to the goddesses when they married. Rag dolls are traditionally home-made from spare scraps of cloth material. Roman rag dolls have been found dating back to 300 BC.
Traditional dolls are sometimes used as children's playthings, but they may also have spiritual, magical and ritual value. There is no defined line between spiritual dolls and toys. In some cultures dolls that had been used in rituals were given to children. They were also used in children's education and as carriers of cultural heritage. In other cultures dolls were considered too laden with magical powers to allow children to play with them.
African dolls are used to teach and entertain; they are supernatural intermediaries, and they are manipulated for ritual purposes. Their shape and costume vary according to region and custom. Dolls are frequently handed down from mother to daughter. Akuaba are wooden ritual fertility dolls from Ghana and nearby areas. The best known akuaba are those of the Ashanti people, whose akuaba have large, disc-like heads. Other tribes in the region have their own distinctive style of akuaba.
The use of an effigy to perform a spell on someone is documented in African, Native American, and European cultures. Examples of such magical devices include the European poppet and the nkisi or bocio of West and Central Africa. In European folk magic and witchcraft, poppet dolls are used to represent a person for casting spells on that person. The intention is that whatever actions are performed upon the effigy will be transferred to the subject through sympathetic magic. The practice of sticking pins in voodoo dolls have been associated with African-American Hoodoo folk magic. Voodoo dolls are not a feature of Haitian Vodou religion, but have been portrayed as such in popular culture, and stereotypical voodoo dolls are sold to tourists in Haiti. Likely the voodoo doll concept in popular culture is influenced by the European poppet. A kitchen witch is a poppet originating in Northern Europe. It resembles a stereotypical witch or crone and is displayed in residential kitchens as a means to provide good luck and ward off bad spirits.
Hopi Kachina dolls are effigies made of cottonwood that embody the characteristics of the ceremonial Kachina, the masked spirits of the Hopi Native American tribe. Kachina dolls are obje