Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation?

Which toys have been found in archaeological excavation? Learn more about the ancient toys of our forefathers, which leave behind a clue of the life of those times.

Archaeological excavations of ancient sites tell us a lot about ancient civilizations. They also hint at how the different civilizations of the past were so unique.

In the last couple of decades, examining ancient literature and excavating ancient sites has led us to believe toys are not just part of modern culture.

Toys for children’s play have been a part of many ancient civilizations, including the oldest ones like the Indus valley civilization. People in those times mostly made toys specifically for kids to play for, while adults used some of them. Researchers find some toys to be used for religious purposes as well.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

I will discuss the different toys found in excavating different sites and their historical values in ancient civilizations. This article will include multiple sections, including toys found in Indus valley civilization, toys discovered in the 2000-year-old city of Parion, and toy swords of the Roman period.

Toys Found In Indus Valley Excavation 

The Indus valley civilization is among the oldest civilizations in the world. It was located near the Sindhu river in modern-day Pakistan from 3300 BC to 1900 B.C. 

Over the years, there have been multiple valuable things found in the excavation of the Indus valley. Things like the great granary, ivory weight balance, priest-king statue, and the great bath are found in Indus valley civilizations. You can find these artifacts in the national museums of India and Pakistan.

But other than these artifacts, there are many toys found during the excavation. These toys tell a lot about the civilization. The toys were also a sign of incredible craftsmanship when presumably scarcity of most resources to make such artifacts. 

Below are some of the most common toys:

Toy Carts 

Movable toy carts made of stone were some of the most commonly found toys during excavations. The toy carts usually used to feature two bulls pulling a cart with large wheels. The cart usually has small water pots in it. These carts are also the reflection of the agricultural nature of the Indus valley civilization.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

These toys are similar to modern-day race car toys, with the primary difference being that the carts do not have any way to pull them forward. Modern car toys are made of plastic, unlike the ancient toy carts made of stone.

Dice & Marbles

Dice, pawns, and marbles are one of the most recognizable toys found during the excavations. Among these toys, the most interesting toy is the rectangular and circular mazes. 

Not all these dice and marbles were children’s toys but were used by adults in various board games popular during that time.

These dice and mazes were made of clay marble. Most of these mazes are still used, but the only difference is that now they are made of plastic and feature a tiny metal ball inside secured with a transparent plastic top.

Kitchen Set

There are more fascinating toys found in the excavation. A bunch of them resemble a modern-day kitchen set. The bunch of toys includes little pieces that resemble plates, glasses, cups, and water vessels. 

These little pieces are made of clay, so you can understand that they are used for children’s play and not actual cooking.

Animal Figurines

There are many different types of animal figurines found during the excavations. These animal figurines were primarily made of clay, while they carved some of them from stone. 

The animal figurines generally resemble elephants, tigers, and many different types of birds. Children in those days usually used to have a whole set of different animal figurines.

Many of the figurines also have movable heads that researchers find in Harappa. Mostly the figurines with movable heads depict cattle. 

They were pierced laterally from the neck and sagittally or vertically through the head to settle them to the toy bodies. Children used to control the head with a cord.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation


Whistles have been used for thousands of years for various purposes, and the excavation of ancient sites proves it. The ancient civilizations were pretty creative with their whistles. The Indus valley civilization had a hollow bird and egg whistles. People used them to amuse the children. 

Toy Boat

Toy boats are some of the unique toys found in those times. Just like most of the other toys, they were also made of clay. Researchers found the toy boats to be around five to seven centimeters in size, which is similar to many toy boats made in this era. 

Toys Found In Children’s Tombs In Ancient City Of Parion

Archaeologists have found old toys belonging to the Hellenistic Period. Researchers discovered them inside tombs made for children in the ancient seaport city of Parion, which is situated in the northwestern province of Turkey’s Çanakkale. Researchers project that the toys are 2000 years old. 

Parion is also known as Parium. It was an ancient Greek city that was founded in 709 B.C. During the period of the Roman era, it had a couple of main harbors and served as the central “customs station” for goods coming from Aegean to Istanbul.

Researchers like Hasan Kasaoğlu, a professor at Atatürk University who is also the excavation leader in the Parion, have found many children’s toys during excavations in the ancient city.

The researchers projected that the toys discovered in the excavation are represented as “gifts for the dead children.” These toys offer vital information about the socio-cultural formation of that time.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

For example, the researchers observed female figurines located in tombs where girls were buried, while there were male figures found in tombs where little boys were buried.

Researchers and archeologists have claimed that maybe two thousand years ago, little girls used to play with dolls similar to barbie dolls like now.

They found that even though the toys’ features and shapes have changed a bit, the primary idea has remained the same. It also depicts that even thousand of years ago, the definition of gender roles was very similar.

Other than the human figures, researchers also found some animals’ figurines and mythological figurines in the tombs. Most people believe that the toys are buried to accompany the dead children on the quest to the afterlife.

Some researchers also found a baby bottle around the same region. The ancient site has gone through many excavations by Archaeologists since 2005. Many graves, coffins, and ancient artifacts are found in the area.

Toy Swords Of The Roman Era

Researchers found new evidence of toys in the Vindolanda, a fort located just south of the Hadrian’s Wall. It is situated in today’s Northumberland in England. Around two thousand years ago, this site was on the northern edge of the Roman Empire.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

During the excavation of the fort’s cavalry barracks, the archaeologists found a couple of wooden toy swords. One of them had a polished stone in the pommel, while the other didn’t have a pommel, wooden handle, or scabbard but its tang and blade were intact.

The toy swords were well designed and pretty similar to real swords. Young children used to play with those toy swords and mimic their brothers and fathers.

The team of archeologists found the toy swords after elevating the stone foundations from a comparatively more recent fort renovation. They discovered black, damp, oxygen-free soil which was sealed underneath. These are excellent conditions for preserving old artifacts. 

The researchers said that it is exceptionally rare to find two complete swords in separate rooms only two meters away from each other. 

The city of Vindolanda was built during the later period of the first century A.D., even before Hadrian’s Wall was made (A.D. 122). It strengthened the border between the British tribes of the north and the Roman Empire.

The History Of Toy Boats 

We have spoken about toy boats found in the Indus valley civilizations, but toy boats are not limited to one ancient site. Archeologists have discovered a thousand-year-old toy boat abandoned water wells in a tiny farmstead on the coastal region of the central part of Norway.

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

Researchers found the toy boat there during the summer of 2016. The water well either dried up or became foul. Archeologists found the beautifully carved wooden toy boat when they dug the well. The toy boat also has a raised prow that looks like a Viking ship, and it features a hold in the middle where a mast was stepped.

An archaeologist of NTNU MuseumUlf named Fransson, along with one of the field leaders of the place where the excavation took place, stated that the boat tells a lot about the culture of that time.

They said it’s interesting that there was something for children to play even in those times, and they were allowed to do something other than working on the farm.

The Relevance Of The Toy Boat With History

As surprising as it may sound to find a Scandinavian toy boat that is thousand years old, it is also not that uncommon. In 1900 a boat which was pretty much the same in both construction and age was found in downtown Trondheim. 

It was found when the authorities dug the road in front of the Trondheim Public Library to install sewer pipes.

Archaeologists found the Scandinavian toy boat in a comprehensive archaeological excavation at the Ørland Main Air Station located at the west coast of Trondheim. 

Which Toys Have Been Found In Archaeological Excavation

During the Middle Ages, Trondheim was the national capital when Vikings were ruling until 1217, and then it was a trading city. Compared to the population of Trondheim, there was enough wealth amongst people that were generated from trade to make sure that the children of the city had something to pass their time and enjoy, and this is what probably gave rise to toy boats.

On the contrary, the head of the Ørland Main Air Base excavation project, Ingrid Ystgaard, has a slightly different opinion. 

According to her, the farm is located far from the sea, and it did not have much strategic significance, and other farms had a better location in Ørland.

It indicates that the medieval farm wasn’t as prosperous as expected. But because the quality of life was so good, people had time to carve beautiful toy boats for the kids.

Why Were Toy Boats Significant?

Archeologists projected that toy boats were the most advanced type of toys during the middle ages. A toy boat built like a Knarr, a kind of boat, or a Viking ship is used to attract both adults and children and make them feel important.

The toy boats were made for children to play with, but there was high craftsmanship to make them look as realistic as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which toys are discovered in archaeological excavation?

There are many different types of toys found in the excavation of ancient sites. The toys also tell a lot about the different civilizations.

Below are some of the commonly found toys:

  • Toy Carts
  • Toy boat
  • Dice and marbles 
  • Animal figurines 
  • Whistles 
  • Wooden swords 

What are some of the items found during archaeological excavation?

Some of the things found in archaeological excavations:

  • Ancient tools
  • Weapons
  • Toys
  • Pots 
  • Gold ornaments 
  • Buried bones of animals and humans 
  • Ancient coins 
  • Metal 

What are the things found in excavation?

There are no limits to the importance of things found during the excavation of various ancient sites. All the things found during excavations are the top source of our information about the ancient civilizations. I have listed some important things found during excavation:

  • Tools
  • Pans
  • Pots 
  • Coins 
  • Ornaments 
  • House foundations 
  • Graves 
  • Artifacts 
  • Bones
  • Seeds

What are the terracotta toys found during excavation?

Researchers usually find Terracotta toys during the excavation of Indus valley sites. Most terracotta toys are models of clay. Some of the most common terracotta toys are figurines of animals, movable bullock-cart, and plow.

Wrap Up

I have covered all the different kinds of toys found during excavations of noteworthy ancient sites. It is crucial to notice how simple toys for children tell us so much about the old civilizations and their culture.

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