One more treasure

castello in piu One of the places that fascinate me more in Ischia is definitely the Aragonese Castle. Although it is familiar, surprises me every time I look it, a different color of some its former building, a plant or a flower that I had not yet seen.
This year the biggest surprise that I found in the church of the eighteenth century are two fascinating Egyptian sarcophagi and a table for mummy coming from Brussels. This “out of place” has given me thoughts and emotions that led me to collect as many pieces as possible.

First their origin: about 300 years before the Euboeans based Pithekoussai, Ischia, their first colony in the West, Egyptians had already experienced a long history of 21 dynasties, has a charming succession of pharaohs (men and women) and of battles, in which the figures of the priests remained a constant and unchanging strong that often actually led the country. It is just during the twenty-first dynasty (1070-945 BC) that “Firts Prophets of Amun” that is, the priests of the temple of this god at Thebes, who essentially ruled the region at that time, built for themselves and their family a huge tomb to host 153 sarcophagi, at Deir el-Bahri near the tomb of the great queen Hatshepsut.

Like all the tombs of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens, this seems filled in a rather short period of time - about fifty years - is sealed and hidden, so as not to fall prey of grave robbers era. It will remain so until January 1891, and when was discovered showed intact.
The tomb, a long corridor shaped like an L of about 140 m, could have been a mine of cephalexin and information. However, with incredible lightness in just eight days, from February 5 to 13 1891, the “Bab el-Gasus tomb (Gate of the Priests)”, as it was called, is completely emptied without either a drawing or a relief or photo are made, without any serious cataloging. The material - 153 sarcophagi containing mostly double coffins, one inside the other, several “tables for mummies” that covered the body of the deceased and countless funeral furnishings - is quickly transferred to Cairo, where one thinks also to remove bandages from mummies, who knows, maybe to look for precious amulets inserted between the bandages. Then everything is put in a store, like a broken toy, of which the child is tired too quickly. Indeed, since the deposits have few places, three years after groups of sarcophagi with a few furnishings are sold to various museums, including the Royaux Musées d'Art et d'Histoire of Brussels in Belgium, which receive ten. Perilous journey by sea and rail, “restoration” a bit patchy, where what is lost is sometimes replaced with personal interpretations and fanciful hieroglyphics, exposure in a bit poor conditions, and again a nice deposit.
For me, though, things have a soul seeking sometimes redemption: so, “found” somewhere closer curator, one can decide to start studying and restore two ones looking for who’s better in field of wood restoration, in Europe, and perhaps in the world.

The centers are different, but the small European Institute of Restoration, over there, on the island of Ischia, boasts a number of excellent works that capture the attention, including the excellent furniture restoration of charred wood found at Herculaneum, objects that crumbled to the touch and that now they are beautifully visible. There was also the restoration of another sarcophagus, into the curriculum of the European Institute of Restoration and its director Teodoro Auricchio that one of Shepsespath now kept at the National Archaeological Museum of Parma. Many other items have certainly weighed the decision to entrust the IER these two sarcophagi, as a proof of the fact that a job well done always pays off.
Therefore, these pieces and the corresponding table for mummy arrived in Ischia in October 2014, underwent CT scan at the hospital Rizzoli. Later they are transported up here to walk the ancient paths and welcomed in module workshop-exhibition EUROPE, a room glass designed especially for them always by Professor Auricchio, in order to protect them but also to allow experts Royaux Musées d’ Art et d’ Histoire in Brussels to follow the proceedings live video and all to admire.
Here they will stay until October, before returning to Brussels where the work will continue.
So I take this opportunity to watch them as closely as possible, observing the background color (is it the original or has changed over time?), identifying those few signs that my youthful passion for ancient Egypt makes me recognize: the ankh, a kind of T surmounted by a ring, which means “life”. The uraeus, the cobra, symbol of royalty, often depicted on the front of the sovereign to protect it with his fiery breath; the eye of Ra; the feather of the goddess Maat, symbol of the cosmic order was used to weigh the soul of the deceased. Again, the disc of the sun, the boat of the deceased, the head of the animal... But also the beautiful face calm eyes bilayers painted relief on the cover and on the table for mummy, hands crossed on his chest and every small detail I can grasp.
Then will be the experts to tell us what else will have discovered, perhaps even to give a name to those who for now are only the inventory numbers. They will talk about the techniques used to build them, woodwind reused, hands them paintings.
I can only imagine, based on the little information we have about these new “guests” of our island, thinking that our own attention is a way, after all, to bring them back to life, to give them a kind of immortality.


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Info on Ischia island

  • Surface: 46 Kmq
  • Hight: 789 mt
  • Lat.: 40° 44',82 N
  • Long.: 13° 56',58 E
  • Periplus: 18 miglia
  • Coasts: 51.2 Km
  • Cities: 6
  • Inhabitants: 58.029


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