Genoa reopens the Museum of Ligurian Archaeology, the most important in the region

After a period of closure due to construction, the Museum of Ligurian Archaeology, the most important archaeological museum in Liguria, reopens in Genoa with new layouts and apparatus.

The Museum of Ligurian Archaeology in Genoa reopens to the public on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, after a period of retrofitting. The museum is located in the historical-environmental complex of the Parks and Museums of Pegli, a district in the city’s western part, and is housed inside Villa Durazzo Pallavicini. The ancient aristocratic mansion was donated to the City of Genoa in 1928 by the Pallavicini heirs with the condition that it be used for cultural purposes: thus was born the most important archaeological museum in Liguria, opened in 1936. In the eighteen rooms on three floors the public can return to explore the challenges, crises and successes of the two human species that lived in Liguria, from which we Europeans descend, during a hundred thousand years. Indeed, the Genoese archaeological collections recount the movements of Neanderthals and Sapiens, the life of Ice Age hunters, the arrival of the first Mediterranean maritime pioneers, artistic and spiritual manifestations, cave encampments, early villages, roads, and the region’s oldest settlements. In the museum one can also discover the birth of Genoa 2500 years ago and its first inhabitants, the relations with the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Mediterranean, the Ligurians’ struggles with Rome, and the founding of the cities of Liguria as a Roman province.

Along the exhibition route, the public will find traditional displays, QRCodes, tools, weapons, raw materials and reproductions to manipulate, and the stories of women and men who were protagonists of crucial episodes aim to engage visitors with different interests and characteristics. In the “Cave of Archaeology,” built in the access area to a World War II air raid shelter near the Museum, the public will also be able to relive “everyday” moments and experiences of life in Ligurian caves more than 6,000 years ago.

Among the 50,000 artifacts preserved in the historic museum is evidence of the most significant events in Ligurian history: from the great climatic changes of the Paleolithic period, to the origins of Genoa, to the rise ofRome and the birth of the first Roman cities in Liguria. The provenance of the artifacts not only from archaeological excavations but also from a number of private collections, including the 19th-century collection of Prince Odone of Savoy, allows narrative insights into this peculiar chapter of a cultured and refined collecting as well.

There are many important exhibits in the museum. First and foremost, mention may be made of the Prince of the Candide Arenas: discovered at a depth of 6.70 m in the Candide Arenas Cave (Finale Ligure, Savona), this 15-year-old young hunter who lived 24,000 years ago (uncalibrated dating), owes his nickname “Prince” to the extraordinary trousseau with which he was buried. He is 1.70 m tall, has very strong arms, especially the right one suitable for hurling spears while hunting, and legs trained by continuous and prolonged exertion. Analyses done on his bones indicate that he ate a lot of meat from wild animals as well as fish and shellfish. The body lying on its back is covered with red ochre, and the grave goods are very rich: a headdress made of hundreds of perforated sea shells, a long flint knife from today’s southern France clutched in the right hand, a shell bracelet with mammoth ivory pendant, four “command” sticks made from elk antlers, perforated and decorated with engraved lines and notches, and two mammoth ivory “buttons” next to the knees.

Again, Tomb 30 of the Via XX Settembre Necropolis, one of the richest and most interesting tombs in the entire pre-Roman necropolis of Genoa, stands out. It belongs to a high-ranking lady who came to Genoa in the 5th century B.C. from the Como area and the Golasecca Culture, following a marriage alliance. The trousseau includes the splendid amber necklace, imported from the Baltic, with elements in the shape of a perfume jar, a boot-shaped pendant, a gold folding disc, and a number of silver alloy brooches (fibulas) of different shapes also found in Etruria Padana.

Of considerable importance is the sculptural group of Cerberus, which represents an extraordinary and unique work made in Genoa in the early Roman Imperial Age (1st century B.C.- 1st century A.D.). Cerberus is a monster of ancient mythology, a fierce three-headed dog guardian of the realm of the dead. In our specimen, which retains only two of the heads, he is crouched on his hind legs while his right front paw rests with his claws on a severed human head. This Apuan marble sculpture was found in Genoa in the area of present-day Via Fieschi, in a burial area close to the necropolis and along a street. It brings together elements from the Mediterranean world, such as the mythological figure of the Cerberus, Celto-Ligurian, such as the severed human head, and from Etruscan and Italic areas, such as the snake-shaped tail with crest and wattles.

Finally, mention may be made of the Tavola di Polcevera, the oldest legal document concerning the Ligurians and Genoa. This important bronze epigraph was found in 1506 near Serra Riccò, in Valpolcevera, inland from Genoa. It reports in Latin the arbitration issued in 117 B.C. by two Roman magistrates, the Minucii brothers, concerning the territories under Genoa’s control in the Polcevera Valley. The text reports the boundaries and agro-pastoral activities allowed to the Vituri Langensi, Ligurian peoples of the Polcevera Valley, and also gives important information about the route of the Via Postumia that crossed that territory, connecting Genoa to the Po Valley and then eastward to the Adriatic. The document has been a symbol of Genoa’s ancient origins for many years.

The reopening will be celebrated on Thursday, December 29, at 12 noon, with a party organized by the City of Genoa in collaboration with associations and economic realities of the city’s Ponente area. At 12 noon, a commemorative plaque dedicated to Syrian archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad will be unveiled. The reopening of the Museum will be celebrated with musical moments by the Conte Brass Band and, in the afternoon, with activities and workshops for children and young people. The City of Genoa thanks the Conte Music School and CUP-Centro Universitario del Ponente.

Genoa reopens the Museum of Ligurian Archaeology, the most important in the region
Genoa reopens the Museum of Ligurian Archaeology, the most important in the region

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