Ancient and Creepy Doll Head Discovered in Prehistoric Child Grave Joins World's Oldest Known Toy Collection

Smoke rises from snow-covered houses in Sun City, Siberia, on March 1, 2002. Archaeologists in Siberia have discovered a Bronze Age child’s grave containing some of the oldest toys known to exist anywhere in the world. Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

Archaeologists in Siberia have discovered a Bronze Age child's grave containing some of the oldest toys known to exist anywhere in the world. The artifacts from the Okunev culture—a southern Siberian ethnic group dating back to prehistoric times—include the heads of a doll and an animal figurine; the bodies of each had been made of organic material and over time worn away, according to the Siberian Times.

The toys are around 4,500 years old, found in the Itkol II burial ground in the Republic of Khakassia, in southern Siberia. The head of the doll, which measures just a couple of inches in height, had "carefully worked-out facial features," Andrey Polyakov, an archaeologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute for the History of Material Culture, told The Siberian Times. It's carved from soapstone, a talc-based rock that's naturally soft. The animal head, on the other hand, had been carved from antler or horn; exactly which animal it originally represented remains unclear.

Magical new 4,500 year old finds add to 'oldest toy collection in the world'. An ancient doll and a mythical animal were buried with a child from the Okunev culture in the Bronze Age

— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) December 29, 2017

The toys' purpose was unknown, but Polyakov told The Siberian Times that the grave and the artifacts it contained belonged to a "common child," as opposed to one of an elite social class.

Dolls and similar toys have been discovered in children's graves in the past, as Inquisitr explained, but often they feature reproductive motifs or other elements that indicate they had a symbolic purpose for adults. These toys, however, seem to have been intended to be used as toys—recreationally, by children.

The Okunev people are related to Native Americans, and it's been suggested that ancient Okunevs were the group to populate the Americas, according to an earlier Siberian Times report. The toys join other previously discovered Okunev artifacts in what's believed to be the oldest known toy collection in the world.

Two years ago, a wooden cradle found on the shores of Lake Itkul containing the remains of a baby also revealed a cache of "ghoulish figurines"—carvings of human and animal faces, and what are believed to be the earliest known toy rattles, according to the Siberian Times. Their purpose might have been to ward off evil spirits.

Ancient Okunevs "had mastered processing of copper and bronze manufacture from which they cast blades, daggers, axes and spearheads, fishing hooks and other tools and ornaments," Yuri Esin, an archaeologist at the Khakassian Research Institute of Language, Literature and History, explained to Live Science following that discovery.

On another occasion, a fisherman found an Okunev figurine of a pagan god in a river—"the catch of a lifetime," Tisul History Museum staff said, according to The Siberian Times.