Archeologia Invisibile: Patchwork - Restoring and studying papyri

The exhibition “Archeologia Invisibile” (literally "invisible archaeology") features a dialogue between the humanities and the "hard" sciences. It uses advanced technology to retrieve information that is not visible to the naked eye.

Click here to find out more about Archeologia Invisibile.

A section of the exhibition is entirely dedicated to the museum’s papyri. In this section, visitors can discover how curators and restorers take care of one of the most important papyrus collections in the world.  

Restoring a papyrus does not mean restoring its original appearance, as much as studying the material and the technique by which it was produced to better understand it and preserve it in future.  

Two stories, chosen for the temporary exhibition, provide examples of this.

A library from This

The first brings us to the town of Thinis or This, in the south of Egypt, to a library dating from Byzantine times (c. 7th–8th centuries), now lost. Its name is recorded in several papyrus codices. Scientific analyses of the inks used reveal many details about the nature and provenance of the materials employed in the workshops of the scribes who wrote them.

Restoring a papyrus

The second story is set in Turin, in the 19th century. Here we find the restorers of the period engaged in the questionable activity of "patching together” a funerary papyrus from the Third Intermediate Period (9th–8th centuries BCE) with fragments of papyri from the Ramesside period (12th–11th centuries BCE).

Archeologia Invisibile: A library from This

Infographic Ink

Infographic showing the results of the micro-XRF analysis of the ink; created by Tea Ghigo, Piera Luisolo, and Susanne Töpfer/Museo Egizio

Archeologia Invisibile: Patchwork - Restoring a papyrus

Museo Egizio