The Torino Egyptian Museum ROCKS! Interest in Egypt, the Pyramids and the Valley of the Kings may have never reached it present heights were it not for the Egyptian campaigns of Napoleon (1798-1801).
Back in the day
For as much sacking as Napoleon did, and for as much antiquity as he pulled out of ancient Egypt, the quantity pales in comparison to that of Carlo Felice, who in the two decades following Napoleon acquired thousands of rare papyrus and artifacts of which formed the foundation of the Egyptian Museum of Torino in 1824. All the more impressive is the site of the Egyptian museum: a 17th century palace – built as a Jesuit school by the architect Guarino Guarini – and passed on to the Academy of Sciences in the 18th century.
Let’s face it – back then the scientific community called it “exploration” and it was a much simpler time. All the plunder that was hauled out of the Egyptian sand shined one heck of a spotlight on the Valley of the Kings.
Jump forward only a few scant years later (between 1903 and 1920) and a number of high-profile Italian archaeological missions in Egypt (along the Nile at Deir el Medina) led to the acquisition of even more Egyptian riches.
Which leads us to the present
Apart from being second in scope and importance to only the Cairo Museum, the Torino Egyptian Museum is all at once part display, part classroom and a real-time location for on-going scientific and archaeological study. The museum boasts approximately 30,000 pieces of archaeological treasure of which 8,000 pieces make up the primary display at the museum. Of particular importance is the papyrus collection of Kha and Merit, the statue of the goddess Iside and Ramesse II, the temple of Ellesija, the statue of Sekmet and Ptah, the colossal statue of Pharaoh Sethi II and the sarcophagus of Ibis.
Not just a musty museum
In addition to carrying for its impressive collection, the Egyptian Museum of Torino is actively involved in on-going archaeological pursuits. The staff at the museum has a lengthy resume of experience and field work to its credit thanks to fieldwork done in conjunction with the European Union and colleagues from around the world.
Don’t forget to bring a map
Torino’s Egyptian Museum is open from Tuesday to Sundays and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a similar way to spend an afternoon that runs less than 10 euro. Visitors can “rent” an English audio-guide for 5 Euros which adds a new element to everything on display. On the ground floor of the museum are two rooms dedicated to the Prehistoric and Old Kingdom (4th millennium BC) with a small gallery to the left of this room dedicated to hieroglyphs and their understanding. One of the oldest – if not THE oldest fragment of papyrus (entitled the “Royal Papyrus”) is one of the most impressive treasures on display and on which lists the names of pharaohs in order of their reigns. Required viewing for the archaeologically-gifted.
Also on hand are tablets which depict rites of passage to the afterlife, some sarcophagi, funerary texts, statuettes, papyrus, mummies (human and animal), some jewelry and an endless collection of artifacts that adorned tombs and burial chambers. There is also a basement which contains more sarcophagi and other important tomb artifacts.
Of no less importance are displays of carved statues including likenesses of Tuthmosis II, Amenhotep I, Horemheb, Rameses II and even the boy-king Tutankhamen.
In fact, there is so much to see at the museum it is almost overwhelming in its scope. While it’s true that nothing can compare with an actual trip along the Nile, the Torino Egyptian Museum may be the next best thing to visiting the Land of the Pharaohs itself.
Check out the museum website for a detailed map of where everything is located. Either that or bring a pocket GPS.