Archaeological Mission of the Papyrological Institute "G. Vitelli", University of Florence

The history of the Archaeological Mission began in 1935, when Evaristo Breccia, commissioned by the Papyrological Institute of Florence, explored the ruins of Antinoupolis, in the footsteps of the travelers of the 19th century. Girolamo Vitelli, who died that year amd later gave his name to the Institute, had strongly advocated the concession of excavations in the city of Antinous. These first years were dedicated to investigations in various areas of the site, to the search for papyri and to the rediscovery of the city’s best-known sites, such as the temple of Ramesses. However, the work lasted only a few years due to the outbreak of the Second World War and had to be broken off in 1940.

It was a pupil of Breccia, Sergio Donadoni, who resumed the excavations in 1965. During these years, until 1985, the work was conducted by the Papyrological Institute in collaboration with the Sapienza University of Rome.

The Institute then continued its campaigns until 1993, when security problems forced another long period of suspension. From 1973 to 1993, it was the director of the Papyrological Institute Manfredo Manfredi who continued work on the site.

In those same years, in 1991–1992, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) opened a new excavation area near the Mission House. The work is part now of a joint project of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and the Papyrological Institute and is being led by colleagues in the SCA, Insp. Fathy Awad Reiad and Insp. Hamada Kellawi. The excavation, which has already brought to light several monumental structures, including a large nilometer, continues with excellent results.

From 2000 to 2019, the Institute’s work was led by Rosario Pintaudi, with the participation of scholars and experts in various disciplines of archaeology and philological studies.

The mission is now directed by Francesca Maltomini, Professor of Papyrology and Director of the Papyrological Institute; the field director is Marcello Spanu, Professor of Ancient Topography at the University of Roma Tre.

Excavation work in recent years has been concentrated within the urban area, in the northern part of the settlement. One sector (for which Giuseppe Alvar Minaya is responsible) has yielded a balneum from the Byzantine period and a statue of Nymph/Aphrodite now on display at the Cairo Airport Terminal 3 Museum. The materials from this sector are still being studied.

There are several ongoing study projects. These include the Archaeological Map of the city (entrusted to Marcello Spanu), the study of the temple of Ramesses II (Gloria Rosati), the study of ceramic artefacts from Sergio Donadoni’s excavations between 1965 and 1985 (Emanuela Borgia and Mara Elefante), the classification and study of architectural decoration (Emanuela Borgia), the study of glass material (Flora Silvano) the study of textiles (Somaya Abdel Khalek), the anthropological study of mummies (Ayah Salem), the study of clay figurines and terracotta (Pascale Ballet), the documentation of the funerary area north of the settlement (James Heidel, Fathy Awad Reiad, Hamada Kellawi and Marcello Spanu), and the restoration and study of written materials (Diletta Minutoli, Rosario Pintaudi, Lucio Del Corso and Francesca Maltomini).

The work of the Mission has led to numerous publications, which are also available in digital format and freely accessible.