The Egyptian Museum of Turin (in Italian, Museo Egizio di Torino) is a museum of Egyptian archeology and anthropology in the city of Turin, Italy. Not only it’s the only museum in the world entirely dedicated to Ancient Egypt outside the homonymous country, but it also brings together all kinds of imaginable pieces: statues, papyrus, sarcophagi, and even real mummies!
The museum’s collection of Egyptian antiques is indeed one of the largest in the world, with more than 30,000 works, artifacts, and other “treasures”, of which only 6500 are on permanent display. In addition, its influx of visitors has been steadily increasing from year to year, making it one of the most visited museums in Italy.
In this complete guide, you’ll find must-see historical artifacts, information regarding opening hours and ticket prices, as well as the best tips and suggestions about the Egyptian Museum of Turin.
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- Brief History of the Egyptian Museum of Turin
- What to See at the Egyptian Museum of Turin
- Practical Guide to the Egyptian Museum of Turin
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Brief History of the Egyptian Museum of Turin
The Egyptian Museum of Turin opened in 1824 thanks to King Charles Felix of Sardinia, shortly after having acquired more than 5000 artifacts from the collection of excavations by Bernardino Drovetti, the consul of France in Egypt.
Nine years later, the museum received another donation, this time from the collector Giuseppe Sossio and containing about 1200 objects. At the beginning of the 20th century, the collection continued to increase, thanks to the work of the archaeologist and Egyptologist Ernesto Schiaparelli, who simultaneously accumulated the post of the museum’s director.
Nevertheless, the first exotic artifact that arrived in Turin was a very elaborate bronze altar table nicknamed Mensa Isiaca (or Tavola Bembina), in 1630. Despite imitating Egyptian hieroglyphics, the table dates from the Roman era and encouraged the King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia to ask for expeditions to Egypt, which resulted in about 300 pieces from various temples.
The current collection of the Egyptian Museum of Turin is installed in the building of the Accademia delle Scienze, practically since its foundation. However, this same monument underwent a major remodeling between 2010 and 2015, with a new layout of the Gallery of Kings redesigned by the renowned scenographer Dante Ferretti.
What to See at the Egyptian Museum of Turin
Did you know that the room temperatures in the Egyptian Museum of Turin remain between 21ºC and 24ºC throughout the year, to preserve the displayed relics? Thus, the visit through the permanent exhibition follows a chronological sense, of the history and culture of Ancient Egypt:
- History of the Museum (on floor -1)
- Predynastic period, Tomb of the Unknown, Tomb of Iti and Neferu, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom (on the second floor)
- Deir el-Medina, Tomb of Kha, Coffin Gallery, Restoration Area, Valley of the Queens, Late Period, Ptolemaic Period and Roman Period, and Late Antiquity (on the first floor)
- Gallery of Kings, Temple of Ellesiya, and Nubian Room (on the ground floor)
WARNING! This article includes a photograph of a human mummy, which may hurt the susceptibilities of the most sensitive readers.
Papyri (Floor -1, Room 1)
The “Papyri Collection of the Egyptian Museum of Turin” is one of the most important in the world, with around 700 entire or reconstructed manuscripts, not to mention more than 17,000 fragments! It documents more than 3000 years of Egyptian history and culture and it’s gathered in a virtual inventory that you can visit.
Of the most important specimens, the Papyrus of Iuefankh stands out, because is over 18 meters long! It’s one of the three versions of the museum’s “Book of the Dead”, that is, a kind of “instruction manual” with magic formulas, prayers, and hymns, among others, to help the deceased travel to the other world.
Also noteworthy are the Royal Canon of Turin (also called Turin King List), which mentions the gods and pharaohs who ruled Ancient Egypt until the 19th dynasty, as well as the Papyrus of Artemidoro, a manuscript discovered less than 30 years ago.
The museum’s papyri collection consists mainly of material resulting from the expeditions of Bernardino Drovetti and Ernesto Schiaparelli, papyri that later helped Jean-François Champollion in decoding hieroglyphics: funerary and magical texts, letters, diaries, administrative papers, teachings, animal and tomb drawings, and even satirical and erotic papyri.
Tomb of the Unknown (2nd Floor, Room 2)
As its name implies, this anonymous tomb was found in the ancient Egyptian city of Gebelein, which was located on the banks of the Nile approximately 30 km south of Luxor. Perfectly intact, the tomb had been carved out of the rock, creating a corridor that led to three separate funerary chambers.
Even though one of them is empty, the explorers managed to collect coffins, mummies, wooden beds, chests, and various daily objects, among other artifacts from the other two. Their owners are unknown to this day, but they might have lived during the 5th dynasty (2435-2305 BC).
Mummies (2nd, Room 2 and 1st Floor, Rooms 9 and 11)
Right after entering the permanent exhibition space, a morbid warning (written in Italian and English) informs more sensitive visitors what they’re approaching: real mummies!
“The red triangle marks the spots in the museum galleries where human remains are displayed. Depending on their individual sensibilities, the public can choose whether to view these finds and their archaeological contexts or skip them.”Egyptian Museum of Turin
Well, there are about 24 mummies on display at the Egyptian Museum of Turin, all of them belonging to the Mummy Conservation Project, an initiative of the museum to analyze and restore human mummies and that studies a unique collection of 116 mummified bodies or body parts from Ancient Egypt.
But, how come, human mummies? The truth is that at least 17 animal mummies have also been examined and are now on display in a room on the first floor of the museum, the so-called “Restoration Area”. Among them, I discovered cats, fish, birds of prey, and even a bull and a crocodile!
Tomb of Kha (1st Floor, Room 7)
Kha was a nobleman with the status of supervisor of the public works in Deir el-Medina, at the beginning of the 18th Egyptian dynasty. The discovery of his tomb (and his wife Merit) in February 1906 by Ernesto Schiaparelli became a historic landmark in the archaeological explorations of Ancient Egypt, as the tombs found intact are very rare.
The recovered objects prove the wealthy life that the couple led, not only by their quantity but also by their quality. For example, the mummies were embalmed with jewels and the coffins were ornamented with metals and precious stones.
The burial was well planned too since the items of greatest value were protected from dust with sheets. Likewise, hygiene items, furniture, and more than 100 pieces of clothing were carefully stored.
Coffin Gallery (1st Floor, Room 8)
The Coffin Gallery gathers some of the most beautiful and well-preserved models of Ancient Egypt, more specifically from 1100 BC to 600 BC.
Here, it’s possible to understand the evolution in the construction and ornamentation of the sarcophagi, as well as the objects that were buried inside or next to them.
The sarcophagi of the 21st dynasty that are currently on display at the Museo Egizio were found in the Valley of the Queens, an Ancient Egypt necropolis, during the excavations by Bernardino Drovetti.
From this collection, the ones that stand out are the sarcophagi of Butehamon (a royal scribe), Pahoreniset (a pastry chef), and those of Taba-Kenkhonsu and Tamutmutef (two singers).
Gallery of Kings (Ground Floor, Rooms 14a and 14b)
Even though there are countless rooms and corridors to explore at the Egyptian Museum of Turin, my favorite part of the visit was, without a doubt, the Gallery of Kings. It’s a very long and dark room, filled with absolutely stunning Egyptian statues – the Pharaoh Seti II one is over 5 meters high and weighs 5 tons!
The statues depict gods or pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, in poses and with proportions very similar to each other: this was because it was believed that the essence of the portrayed personality lived within the statue itself. I was delighted with a sandstone Sphinx from the 19th dynasty, but also with the various representations of the god Ptah or the goddess Sekhmet.
Temple of Ellesiya (Ground Floor, Room 15)
Finally, the Temple of Ellesiya was originally found near Qasr Ibrim, an archaeological site in southern Egypt (formerly Nubia). Completely carved in stone, the temple was dedicated to three deities of the Egyptian pantheon – Amun, Horus, and Satis – since some reliefs, hieroglyphs, and other details that demonstrate it have survived.
It is thought to have been built during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III, that is, in the 18th Egyptian dynasty, already in the New Empire. So, how did the temple get to Turin?
In the 1960s, the monument was in great danger of submersion, due to the construction of a gigantic artificial water reservoir, Lake Nasser. So, in a campaign guided by UNESCO, the Temple of Ellesiya was transferred to the Egyptian Museum of Turin.
Practical Guide to the Egyptian Museum of Turin
Did you know that the Egyptian Museum of Turin has a visiting route of over 2 kilometers? Currently, the museum expands over a total of four floors and, in addition to all the permanent exhibition areas, it also includes:
- Ticket Office, Cloakroom, and Classrooms (on floor -1, where the visit begins)
- Museum Shop (on the ground floor, the museum’s entrance)
- Library and Pausa Caffé (on the first floor)
- More Classrooms (on the second floor)
- Temporary exhibitions (on the third and last floor)
Now that you know the history of the museum and some of its must-see artifacts, I leave you with three recommendations based on my personal experience, which will help you to prepare for your visit.
1. Enjoy Free Admission on Your Birthday
The tickets to the Egyptian Museum of Turin – with access to the permanent and temporary exhibitions and audio guide included – cost €15, but there are two reduced rates:
- Student (€11) – from 15 to 18 years old
- Junior (€2) – from 6 to 14 years old
What many people don’t know is that the museum has lots of promotions throughout the year, like free admission on your birthday! To get this, you only need to present an identification document at the ticket office. Other days to consider are Valentine’s Day (February 14), with 2 tickets for the price of 1, Father’s Day (March 19), or Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May), for parents who accompany the children.
Like other museums, it’s also possible to buy a family pack, guided tours, or purchase discounts with cultural and tourist passes. Regardless of the fare you wish to obtain, you can avoid the queues by purchasing tickets at the online ticket office of the Egyptian Museum of Turin.
2. Remember the Special Schedule on Mondays
Unlike most museums in Europe, the Egyptian Museum of Turin is open every day of the week, from 9 am to 6:30 pm, with the last admission taking place one hour before closing. However, there is a special schedule on Mondays: from 9 am to 2 pm, for staff to rest.
For that reason and if possible, take advantage of Monday morning to visit the museum, as many people think it’s closed. In addition, the Egyptian Museum of Turin only closes on December 25th.
3. Arriving on Foot is the Best Option
The Egyptian Museum of Turin is located in the city’s historic center, a few meters from Piazza San Carlo, one of the main squares in Turin. In this sense, it is common to see many buses, trams, and taxis, among others, that make the city tourist circuit.
My advice is to ignore these types of transportation, which can be quite confusing. Take the walk between the Porta Nuova train and metro station and the museum, it is only 10 minutes away and you can enjoy the typical architecture of Turin and its local shops.
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