Arturo Robertazzi on Sep 6, 2018
ave you ever lost your passport three hours before departure? I can assure you that it is not fun. When it happened to me, for example, I kind of panicked. On my way to the police station, though, I had an intuition: “Let me make a phone call first.” A lady answered and… miracolo! My passport was found. Guess where?
Right next to a mummy.
That is not the only reason why I fell in love with the Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy. Hosting more than 30,000 artifacts over the four floors of the historical Palazzo dell’Accademia delle Scienze, the Museo Egizio is the oldest museum in the world dedicated to Egyptian art and civilization.
The story goes back to a time when if you felt like, you could travel to Egypt and run archaeological excavations. So did in 1759 Vitaliano Donati, an Egyptian-culture aficionado from Padua. A few years later, at the beginning of 1800, Napoleon went to Egypt to conquer new territories, sparking a wave of renewed interest about Egyptian culture — Everybody in Europe wanted to have a souvenir from those exotic lands.
So, a ruthless badass named Bernardino Drovetti, a proconsul during the French occupation in Egypt, collected more than 8,000 statues, sarcophagi, mummies, and papyri. These were acquired for 400,000 liras by King Carlo Felice. Bringing together the collections of Donati and Drovetti, he then founded the first Egyptian Museum in the world. Obviously in Turin, the capital of his reign.
The collection grew further thanks to Ernesto Schiaparelli, the first director of the museum, who in his free time used to go to Egypt to lead more excavations or to buy precious artifacts.
After going through a three-year long “restyling” that cost about 50 million euros, the Museo Egizio refreshed its appeal: New looks, more space, more rooms. Floor after floor, you will discover the Egyptian art and culture of a time embracing the era before the pharaohs, the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms, until around the 6th century AD.
With its incredibly large number of full-sized statues from the original collection of Bernardino Drovetti, this is one of the most impressive halls of the museum. The black mirrors decorating the space make the visitor experience breath-taking.
This collection of papyri is considered to be one of the most relevant in the world. It contains several amazing pieces, like the Turin Papyrus map, which was drawn about 1160 BC by the Scribe-of-the-Tomb Amennakhte, and the Royal Papyrus — the most extensive list of kings from 300 to 1,600 BC, on which the chronology before the reign of Ramesses II is based.
These tombs were found in 1906 by Schiaparelli at the excavation site of Deir el-Medina. Besides ancient salted meat, bowls, furniture, statues, and vases, Schiaparelli discovered the stunning wooden sarcophagi that contained the mummies of Kha, the first royal architect of Pharaoh Amenhotep III, and of his wife Merit.
The Book of the Dead is a collection of magic spells intended to assist a dead person during the journey through the underworld. It was typically written in hieroglyphics and illustrated with vignettes. The Museo Egizio puts several versions of the Book of the Dead on display, including the personal copy of Kha and that of Taysnakht, daughter of Taymes.
Have you ever heard of that centuries-old linen cloth that allegedly bears the image of Christ, also known as the Shroud of Turin? Yes, that is right. That is in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin.
Another touristic attraction not to be missed is the Mole Antonelliana tower — the symbol of the city — and the National Museum of Cinema that there is hosted.
Enough culture? Have an easy stroll around Piazza San Carlo or Piazza Castello, perhaps supported by an energizing coffee in one of the typical old-style cafés.
While sipping that espresso macchiato, you may also see what Mark Twain meant when he said: Turin is a beautiful city — Its space goes beyond anything that has ever been imagined before.
The “Statue of Uahka” and the other photos were taken during my trip to Turin.
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