There was a large temple complex dedicated to the goddess Artemis, outside Athens at a town called Brauron. Largely forgotten today, if you were a girl growing up in Athens, then you cared about Brauron very much indeed.
Brauron seems to have been like a combination holiday camp and finishing school for girls. A girl, when she reached the age of 13 or so, packed up her belongings and was taken by her father to the temple. There she was dedicated to the goddess to be her servant for one year.
The girls were called the arktoi, the Little Bears. It was a very special time in a girl's life.
The story of why they were called Little Bears is rather odd, and goes like this: Once, long ago, a tame she-bear lived at the sanctuary of Artemis. A maiden played with the bear, and the bear scratched out her eyes. [All right, not such a tame bear...Gary]. The girl's brother killed the bear, and at once a famine fell upon the Athenians. The Athenians consulted the Oracle at Delphi, who told them Artemis was annoyed about the bear. To appease Artemis, every Athenian girl must before her marriage play at being the bear of Artemis.
The Little Bears played in the forest, had running races and games, danced, studied, and served the goddess. By all accounts it was a time every girl looked forward to.
This first image is from Wiki Commons and is a statue that was unearthed at Brauron. It's difficult to see at first, because the statue's lost its color, but in the folds of her chiton she holds a bunny rabbit. See her left hand holds up the material and her right holds the bunny? This is very typical. Every child was shown holding either a cute animal or a bird.
The fathers commissioned these statues to commemorate the girl's time as a Little Bear. It's somewhat more permanent than a family snapshot. One thing we can be quite sure about: every one of these children was loved by her parents. Firstly because she got her year at Brauron, secondly because a statue like this isn't something you do lightly.
The chiton was probably painted saffron-yellow. There are references to say that was the standard uniform. I guess this girl is at the end of her time, because her hair's loose. The usual arrangement for a maiden is for braids to be tied up like so:
I took this photo at the Getty Villa. It's the head of one of the Little Bears and despite the degradation shows the usual hair arrangement well. There are sadly few statues of children from the Greek world. I suspect most of them come from Brauron. Those that do exist look very natural indeed, which is a big help in judging the statues of grown-ups.
When her time as a Little Bear came to an end, the girl would enter the temple to dedicate her toys to Artemis. Which means she left them there on the altar. This was the moment when she transformed from a girl to a young woman. She left the Temple of Artemis and returned with her father to Athens, where in all likelihood a marriage had already been arranged. She would remember her time as a Little Bear for the rest of her life.