Partner content: Museo Egizio

The Piedmontese capital of Turin is home to the world’s oldest museum dedicated to the Pharaonic civilisation and has the second-largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world.

Friday, May 31, 2019,
By Museo Egizio
Museo Egizio
Museo Egizio
Photograph by Museo Egizio

The Piedmontese capital of Turin is home to the world’s oldest museum dedicated to the Pharaonic civilisation and has the second-largest collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. Discover one of Europe’s most inspiring hidden cultural gems

Housed within an elegant baroque building in the heart of the city, the Museo Egizio has the most important collection of Pharaonic artifacts outside of Egypt. Founded in 1824, the museum preserves a spectacular collection of more than 40,000 pieces — 4,000 of which are on display in the permanent galleries and another 11,000 in the open storages, the so-called Galleries of Material Culture. But, why is such a large Egyptian collection based in Turin?

The museum itself has a fascinating history. The Egizio as it is today is the result of a 400-year-long process, which started with the first Egyptian antiquities acquired by the House of Savoy in the 17th century and later continued with several archaeological excavations in Egypt, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. In 2015, the Museo Egizio doubled in size and opened a new visitor route over four floors and 15 rooms.

Visiting the Museo Egizio means travelling back millennia, following a chronological path through more than 4,000 years of history, encountering invaluable archaeological contexts and exhibits, such as: the natural Predynastic mummy dating back to 5BC; the reconstructed tomb of Iti and Neferu; and the papyrus that documents the first strike in history. Well worth discovering are the statues of the legendary Pharaohs — particularly impressive is the one belonging to Ramses II, one of the most famous figures in Ancient Egypt.

Two of the rooms in the museum are dedicated to the discoveries made by the Italian Archaeological Mission at the beginning of the 20th century in one of the most fascinating sites of Ancient Egypt — the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medina and the nearby necropolis.

In this special exhibition, visitors can delve into the daily life of Ancient Egypt; the displays recount the story of the workmen who built and decorated the Pharaohs’ tombs.
The adjacent room shows the funerary goods of the unviolated tomb of the architect Kha and his wife Merit. Kha was the ‘director of works’ in Deir el-Medina; he was in charge of overseeing the construction of the Pharaohs’ tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

The room allows the visitors to enter the funerary chamber and discover its treasures: 400 artifacts that can be considered the most important example of burial assemblage of a private citizen in the world, outside Egypt. It consists of different kinds of objects: funerary goods, such as the coffins, but also objects from daily life that were thought to be useful in the afterlife, such as the Merit’s wig and her beauty case, or Kha’s worktools and his linen clothes.

The Museo Egizio is actively engaged in the field of scientific research in order to have more information about the collection as well as to ensure its preservation. From 2016, visitors have had the opportunity to see a restoration workshop on animal mummies, a space where expert restorers work on the artifacts on-site, granting the public the opportunity to see the progress of these important restorations. Among the exhibits that have been restored and are now on display, include several mummies of animals that played a part in the life of ancient Egyptians, including bulls, cats and crocodiles.

Another must-see exhibition is the statue of Pharaoh Ramses II; the imposing sculpture has always been one of the most enduring symbols of the Museo Egizio. Ramses was one of the best-known figures of ancient Egyptian history, and during his long reign, expanded and strengthened the country’s borders. The statue is exemplary of the era’s art: the garment worn by the Pharaoh is similar to what he must have worn in real life: the sandals and pierced earlobes that follow the typical fashion derived from the earlier Amarna Era.

Among the treasures of the museum, visitors can even enter an Egyptian temple. Pharaoh Thutmose III had a rock-cut shrine built at Ellesija, not far from Abu Simbel, in the southern part of modern-day Egypt. Destined to be submerged by Lake Nasser following the construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s, the rock-cut temple of Ellesija, along with other famous monuments, was included in the mission to salvage Nubian temples carried out by UNESCO. The monuments were dismantled and reconstructed in safer locations along the shores of the lake. Four of these, including the temple of Ellesija, were given by the Egyptian government to some of the countries that made the greatest contributions to the preservation and promotion of ancient Egyptian culture. The temple arrived in Turin in 1967, in recognition of Italy’s help.

All through the exhibition path, visitors can admire open storage areas with rows and rows of display cases showing a broad selection of artifacts, classified according to materials, shapes, functions and so on. These objects are the physical expression of the civilisation that produced them and used them — their ‘material culture’. Archaeologists, therefore, studied them to shed a light on past societies.


The Gallery of the Kings, with its colossal statues of gods and pharaohs, such as the statue of Seti II, standing over 16ft tall


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