Ancient Egyptians pioneered many toys and games for children and adults, some of which are still played today. Board games were very popular with the Egyptians, and they also crafted children's toys made out of made out of wood or clay from the Nile.
In 1887 the British archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie discovered an Egyptian doll industry that dates back to 1800 B.C. The dolls had movable limbs and were decorated with tattoo patterns around their waists. The dolls were loosely stitched with a head, arms and legs, but they did not have button eyes as was the standard for dolls in the future. The dolls were stuffed with cloth or papyrus.
The ancient Egyptians built many mechanical toys using strings and hinges. One mechanical toy was a baker who would knead his dough with the tug of a string. They also built a mechanical crocodile with snapping jaws. Sometimes dolls would have hinged movable arms or legs.
Egyptian boys liked to play a game similar to hockey with long palm tree branches for their sticks. The puck was made out of stuffed papyrus that was sandwiched together by two pieces of leather. Boys also played a game called "Shezmu," named after the bloodthirsty god of wine or the demon god of slaughter. The god had a dual personality, being cruel as well as providing benefits. The game involved throwing a spear at a target that was drawn on the ground. Egyptian children also would play with large circular hoops made from dried grape vines, similar to the plastic hoops children play with today.
One popular board game was "Mehen," or the game of the snake. The board had the shape of a coiled snake with the body divided into squares. The pieces were such things as ivory houses with pointed roofs, lions and lionesses. They also played with a Ouija board to learn about the future. Other popular board games were Hounds and Jackals, Game of Twenty Squares and Senet. King Tut was buried with four Senet boards alongside him in his tomb. Starting in the Hellenistic period, game pieces were referred to as "dogs."
Spinning tops were a common toy for Egyptian children, and they were inexpensive so even the poorest Egyptian families could afford one. Another simple toy was a marble set, which included a white and black stone marble along with three other stones.
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