Turin’s Egyptian Museum collection of Ancient Egyptian Artefacts is Impressive:
The Egyptian Museum in Turin (Museo Egizio) is located just a few metres from our Piazza Carignano apartment. We walk past the museum everyday, not realizing that contained within the walls of the building is a huge collection of ancient Egyptian treasures. It is in fact the most important collection of Egyptian artefacts after the Cairo Museum.
Two giant statues of Sekhmet guard the entrance to the museum. It seems that not only is Sekhmet the protector of the pharaohs, she also guards the museum’s collections and the myths and legends attached to them.
There are more than more than 32,000 pieces of artefacts in the Egyptian Museum in Turin. How this Turin museum came to amass such a large and important collection of Egyptian artefacts started with just one piece of work.
In 1630, King Carlo Emanuele I purchased the Mensa Isiaca, a Roman reproduction of an Egyptian altar tablet. This sparked interest by successive Savoy kings, starting with King Charles Emmanuel III. In 1757, he sent Vitaliano Donati to Egypt to acquire Egyptian artefacts that might explain the significance of the altar tablet. Donati came back with 300 pieces from Karnak and Coptos. These formed the core and beginning of the Egyptian collection.
In 1824, King Carlo Felice acquired 5,268 objects collected by Bernardino Drovetti during his time as French General Consul to Egypt. With this substantial acquisition, the Regio Museo delle Antichita Egizie was formally founded in 1824. The collections were further enlarged by archaeological missions to Egypt by the Museum between 1900 and 1935. During that period any finds were divided between the excavators and Egypt.
The Museo Egizio is housed in a 17th century palace which was originally built as a Jesuit school. Its collections were not so well known in the past. After a substantial modernization and reorganization of its exhibits, the museum was reopened in 2015. It now ranks on the international stage.
Some of its more significant exhibits include:
- the Mensa Isiaca (the Table of Isis)
- an important statue of Ramesses II
- one of the most significant Papyrus collections. It includes the Royal Papyrus, which lists every king from 300 to 1,600 BC. Jean-Francois Champollion, decipherer of Egyptian hieroglyphs, spent time here decoding the hieroglyphics.
- the Tomb of Kha dating to 3,500 BC
- sarcophagi, mummies and books of the dead from the Drovetti collection
- A 3500 BC painting on canvas which was found in 1931
- Old Kingdom funerary paraphernalia from the Tomb of Unknown (Tomba di Ignoti)
- The 3,500 year-old Ellesija temple built for Tuthmosis III
Visiting the Museum
You don’t have to be an Egyptologist to enjoy the Egyptian Museum. The entrance fee includes an audio guide. With the guide you can walk around at your own pace and select different itineraries. With several levels of civilization, human and animal forms of the various gods, Egyptian ancient history can be difficult to unravel. We found the audio guide very useful as it helped us appreciate what we were looking at.
The museum is organized into three levels. There is only space to display 6,500 objects out of the total collection, but that is more than enough to keep you busy for a whole day. Starting from the top floor we made our way down to the Gallery of Kings on the ground floor. This was my favourite section.
The museum was very busy and with so much to see, we had to race through the place. At the 6.30 pm closing time, some were reluctant to leave and the attendants had to shoo visitors out of the place.
The last thing we expected on our Turin visit was to come face to face with mummies, sphinxes and pharaohs. We’re really glad that we made time to visit the Museo Egizio as it was a most enjoyable museum visit.
Note: Photography is only allowed in some sections of the museum.
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