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Egyptological Collections

Ph: www.egittologia.unipi.it

The Egyptological Collections of the University of Pisa originated in 1962, when a first donation was made by Laura Birga Picozzi, a descendant of the family of Ippolito Rosellini, a pupil of J.-F. Champollion who is considered to be the father of Italian Egyptology.

Subsequent donations, purchases and search and excavation campaigns conducted in Egypt and Sudan by the Department of Egyptology of Pisa University have made the collection a major complex in terms of both its monetary value and richness, and of its scientific, educational, historical and archaeological significance.

The collections are related to the ''I. Rosellini Egyptological Laboratory'' of the Department.

The museum houses the following collections:

- Schiff Giorgini Collection. In 1964 the University of Pisa enriched its collections thanks to a donation of outstanding value made by Michela Schiff Giorgini (1923-1978), who in 1956 had started an archaeological excavation campaign at Soleb and Sedeinga, Sudan, under the patronage of the university. The finds discovered during the excavations are divided between the Khartoum Museum and Pisa University, which preserves the artefacts that the Sudanese government granted to Ms. Schiff Giorgini. In 1972 the University of Pisa conferred an honorary degree on the archaeologist. The Schiff Giorgini Collection is made up of 400 items, but its importance resides in the fact that the exhibits were part of archaeological contexts that were painstakingly explored and methodically studied. These include the temple of Amenophis III and the necropolis of the New Kingdom at Soleb, and the area of the Meroitic necropolises at Sedeinga. Many of the items in the Pisan collection are unique specimens. Notable among these are a bronze mirror damascened with gold, electrum (an alloy of silver and gold) and copper, a large scarab of Amenophis III with a hieroglyph engraving on the flat side commemorating a ''lion hunt'', a fragmental diorite statue representing Amenophis III - Nebmaatre, a block of rose-coloured sandstone from the temple of Soleb, whose surface bears a finely sculpted portrait of Amenophis III. The Pisan collection is rightly considered to be one of the richest in Europe on account of the Meroitic material it contains. There are sculptures with and without inscriptions, ivory, bronze and glass items including a magnificent ''blue chalice'' decorated with a Greek inscription (''Drink, and that you may live!'') and a gilded polychrome figurative motif of Egyptian and Alexandrian inspiration which ranks the chalice as one of the masterpieces of glass production in the Roman period (3rd century AD). The material donated in 1964 by the University was complemented by a silver ring with a hieroglyph inscription on the mounting, coming from Soleb and donated in 1997 by C. Robichon.

- Oxyrhynchus Ostraka Collection. The museum in 1968 saw the acquisition of a very important collection consisting of more than 1500 ostraka (fragments of pottery that in ancient times were used as a writing support), most of which bearing demotic inscriptions (some of them have figures on them; only a few are written in Greek and Coptic), dating from the Augustan and post-Augustan periods. It is a great archive relating to the trade, mostly of cereals, between Oxyrhynchus and the Baharia Oasis. Pisa's demotic Oxyrhynchus archive is completed by other ostraka preserved at the University of Cologne. The publication of the entire archive is therefore an opportunity for international scientific cooperation between the two universities. The documentation plays a key role in tracing the history of economy and trade between Egypt and the oases in the Roman period.

- Picozzi Collection. The collection comprises about one hundred specimens including archaeological finds from the Nile valley as well as important artistic and archival items. Worthy of mention among these are: an unpublished draft of the title page of the ''Monuments of Egypt and Nubia'' by Ippolito Rosellini; a watercolour portrait of Champollion reproduced by U. Umiltà from an oil painting by Alessandro Ricci dated ''On the Nile, 5 October 1829''; an Ethiopian ''magic roll'' and other Nubian archaeological items dating from the end of the 19th century and representing important ''Rosellinian'' memorabilia. The special value and significance of the Picozzi Collection are due to its close connection with the history of Egyptology in Italy. The collection has links with the great Pharaonic collection preserved in Florence's Archaeological Museum, brought to Italy by Ippolito Rosellini following the French-Tuscan expedition to Egypt and Nubia (1828-1829) sponsored by Grand Duke Leopold II, and with the small yet interesting set of Pharaonic items housed in Pisa's Museum of the Cathedral, to which they were donated in 1830.

Nearly all Egyptological museums in the world preserve items obtained from ''foundation deposits''. In Italy, the Egyptian Museums of Turin and Florence exhibit some dating from the 15th century BC (Eighteenth dynasty), under the names of Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1457 BC) and Pharaoh Thutmosis III (1479-1424 BC). The museum of Pisa University boasts a collection of fourteen bronze implements of royal provenance, pertaining to Hatshepsut and Thutmosis III. All artefacts were purchased on the antique market (Cybèle, Paris) in 2001 and donated by Mrs. Monica Benvenuti of Livorno. After being carefully cleaned in the Collection Laboratory by Gianluca Buonomini, the bronzes now show a rich patina and are exhibited in a special pyramidal cabinet in the central hall of the museum.

Recent acquisitions
The Egyptological Collections of the University of Pisa have recently been enriched with interesting exhibits such as glass items and movable parts. These notably include a beautiful glass on peduncles and the front of a wooden drawer with a bronze puller. Other exhibits have been donated by private citizens. Other artefacts worthy of note are a sandstone stele dating from the Ptolemaic period and representing the pharaoh making an offering to the god Thot in the form of a baboon. Exhibited along with the stele are six small bronzes representing deities and two eyes that were probably used as a decoration for a wooden sarcophagus. Six small blue faience plaques meant to be used as beads were donated in 1991. Each plaque is decorated with the head of the god Bes on one side and with the wedjat eye on the other.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00am to 1.00pm
Advance booking required (tel. 050-911579)

Admission free

For further informations:
Ph: +39 050 598647
Fax: +39 050 500668

Web site:
Apt Pisa

Via San Frediano 12, 56126 Pisa (PI)
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