Most of the papyri were acquired by the king of Savoy in 1824 from Bernardino Drovetti (1776–1852), the French consul in Egypt at the time, whose agents procured most of the antiquities for his collection in western Thebes. The rest of the papyrus collection comes from the early twentieth century excavations of the Turin museum in Gebelein, Asyut and, again, western Thebes under the direction of Ernesto Schiaparelli (1856–1928) and Giulio Farina (1889–1947).
Western Thebes is where the Ramesside pharaohs (c. 1300–1050 BCE) had been buried and had built their mortuary temples. Indeed, many of the Turin papyri mention these temples, as well as matters dealing with the construction of royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
The vast majority of the papyrus manuscripts in the Museo Egizio date from the Ramesside period and are highly likely to originate from the settlement of Deir el-Medina, which housed the families of the workmen who built the royal tombs. The papyri probably belonged to members of the administration of the royal necropolis.
The Papyrus Collection consists of nearly 700 whole or reassembled manuscripts and over 17,000 papyrus fragments, documenting over 3,000 years of written material culture in seven scripts and eight languages. It contains texts of various types, and the manuscripts originate from several locations.
narratives, teachings, documentary, letters, codices, journals, rituals, funerary and magical texts etc.
Gebelein, Thebes, Deir el-Medina, This, Asyut, Saqqara, Hermopolis
hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Greek, Arabic, abnormal hieratic, cursive hieroglyphs
Created for the temporary exhibition “Archeologia invisibile” (3 marzo - 6 gennaio 2020)
Copyright: Susanne Töpfer e Piera Luisolo/Museo Egizio
The collection houses a number of important and unique texts that are well known to the Egyptological community and the public. These include: the “Turin King List” also known as “Royal Canon”, a fragmentary papyrus containing a list of Egyptian kings; the “Turin Judicial Papyrus”, a record of a conspiracy against King Ramesses III; the “Satirical-Erotic Papyrus”, giving a glimpse of the humour of the inhabitants of the settlement; the “Turin Goldmine Papyrus”, the oldest known geological map; and the “Turin Strike Papyrus”, documenting the earliest recorded strikes in world history, under Ramesses III.
Among the approximately 170 funerary manuscripts held in the Museo Egizio, two in particular stand out, namely, the Book of the Dead of Kha, written in cursive hieroglyphs by a scribe with a neat handwriting, accompanied by high-quality colour vignettes, and the 18 m long Book of the Dead of Iufankh.
Besides hieratic and hieroglyphic manuscripts, the Museo Egizio houses several Demotic and Greek documentary manuscripts, including title deeds, contracts and receipts. Particularly notable among these are the bilingual (Greek and Demotic) family archive of the priest Totoes and his ancestors, which was found in two sealed jars north of the Hathor temple precinct in Deir el-Medina, and the archive of the “embalmer priest” Amenothes.
The Museo Egizio also holds one of the most important collections of Coptic literary papyri. The Coptic papyrus material acquired in 1824 by Drovetti included about nineteen fragmentary codices. They date to the late seventh or early eighth century AD and originate from the cathedral of Thi(ni)s, modern Ǧirǧa.
If you would like to take a deeper dive into the Papyrus Collection, check out the Museo Egizio YouTube channel covering subjects such as history, content and our research on papyri.