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The History of Marionette Puppets

Updated February 21, 2017

Marionettes are puppets manipulated by strings or rods. Marionettes have a rich and vibrant history that surpasses most other forms of puppetry. With roots in ancient Egypt, marionettes are one of the oldest forms of puppets.

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It is believed the first marionettes were created in ancient Egypt out of ivory, wire, wood or clay. Herodotus wrote that Egyptian priestesses would carry likenesses of the god Osiris that could be manipulated with strings.

Ancient Rome

In Rome, tombs have been found that contain ivory dolls that could be articulated through the use of rods from above. This tradition continued on, and puppeteers in Sicily continue to use similar puppets to this day.

Word Origin

In medieval and Renaissance Europe, small puppets were sometimes used in religious plays. The word marionette comes from a diminutive form of the word Mary, as in the Virgin Mary, which hearkens back to the puppets used as a tool for religious education.


The 18th century saw the rise of operas that were composed specifically for marionettes. In modern Austria, the Salzburg Marionette Theatre continues this tradition.

Television and Film

Marionettes have been used in programs such as "Howdy Doody" and "Thunderbirds." Recently the creators of "South Park" released a marionette feature film called "Team America: World Police."

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About the Author

Tucker Cummings is a freelance writer based in New England. She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of New Hampshire and is a member of the Association of Professional Business Writers. Cummings is also a food writer and curates the blog, Brave New Breakfast.

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