The city of Trieste, the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, maintained strong commercial links with the land of the Nile, where Trieste merchants bought ancient artefacts, big and small, which found their way into the city museum’s collections. Its Egyptian section, consisting of over a thousand items, is one of the main ones in Northern Italy, providing a broad perspective on the civilization of ancient Egypt, as well as a strong educational value.
Exhibits on display in the various rooms include bigger items such as a granite sarcophagus – over six tons in weight-, one in limestone and three in wood, plastered and painted – all three containing mummies and dating back to around 3,000 years ago. Other items consist of scenes about the adoration of the gods, the creation of the world, the weighing of the soul and deities ‘protecting’ the deceased. The hieroglyphs repeat traditional ritual formulas and perpetuate the names of their ancient owners.
Special attention has been paid to the three human mummies — one of which is intact, with its original bandages still in place. The mummies have been subjected to non-invasive CAT scans. This has allowed scientists to explore the bodies and the mummification techniques, as well as to diagnose diseases and, in one case, establish the cause of death. The anthropometric data from the scans were fed into a special software program, similar to those used by forensic police departments; this achieved the reconstruction of the faces of people who have been dead for over three thousand years.
The collection includes three steles and one pyramidion (a pyramid capstone) – all of which are inscribed stone funerary monuments; four excellent quality papyrus sheets, with vivid inscriptions, from a 15th-century-BC ‘Book of the Dead’; and a very fine complete series of four canopic jars in Egyptian alabaster, containing female viscera.
Thematic cabinets are dedicated to the main deities; sacred animals and zoo-anthropomorphic deities; ushabtis figurines, i.e. the deceased’s ‘servants’, in stone, wood and faïence (glazed earthenware), from the 18th to the 30th dynasties (three are of Pharaoh Seti I); and a rich array of amulets, comprising some examples of outstanding craftsmanship.
The display of items from the Greco-Roman, Coptic and Islamic periods conclude the overview of the different successive cultures which inhabited the area along the Nile.
Comune di Trieste
Video by TCD
With the contribution of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Music by Gerald Jay Markoe – “Egyptian Shaman”