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Press Release

Vatican Museums

“Sekhmet Project”
Field archaeology in Egypt and technological innovation

Vatican City – The upcoming Thursday at the Museums on 4 May 2023 is dedicated to the presentation of the “Sekhmet Project”, an international and multidisciplinary research project directed by Alessia Amenta, curator of the Vatican Museums Department of Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities, in collaboration with Mario Cappozzo, assistant.

The meeting will begin at 16.00 in the Vatican Museums Conference Hall where the institutional greetings of the Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, will be followed by an intervention by the project manager Alessia Amenta, who will then give the floor to the restorer Emiliano Ricchi for the technical aspects connected with the creation of this impressive sculptural group, while the engineer Stefano Mastrostefano will speak on the use of Artificial Intelligence in processing the large volume of data collected for each individual statue. During the meeting, space will also be given to the European Institute of Design (Rome), which has developed some interesting degree theses within the project for the academic year 2021-2022.


The project was initiated in 2017 to study the statues of the goddess Sekhmet preserved in the Vatican Museums. Eleven sculptures of the lioness in granodiorite, the precise provenance of which has not yet been ascertained, entered the Vatican Museums in the first half of the nineteenth century with the acquisition of the Cavazzi-Guidi collection.

The first phase of the project comprised the restoration of the eleven statues conserved in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. The conservation work - carried out by the company Decesaris the supervision of the Vatican Museums' Laboratory for the Restoration of Stone Materials and with the support of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums (Canada Chapter) - made it possible to obtain important scientific results that were later developed jointly with the Egyptian Museum of Turin, which in turn holds twenty-three examples of Sekhmet statues. The scientific investigations confirmed unequivocal traces of colour, completely overturning the perception of these statues within the “Templar grammar”.

The project collaborates with the “Colossi of Memnon and Amenhotep III Temple Conservation Project”, directed by Houring Sourouzian, who has worked for 25 years at the funerary temple of Amenhotep III in West Thebes, Luxor, the largest and most extraordinary ever unearthed in Egypt, built between 1390 and 1353 BC and destroyed around 150 years later by a terrible earthquake. Hundreds of statues of the goddess Sekhmet (approximately 300 in 2022) come from this site, and are now conserved in warehouses in the area. The ultimate aim of this ambitious excavation and conservation project is also the return the statues in situ.

Another 250 or so statues come from the temple of the goddess Mut at Karnak, on the eastern shore of Luxor, and around 300 are now also dispersed in numerous museums around the world.

This is unquestionably the largest single-subject serial sculptural production in the history of humanity.

Of this production, which involved an extraordinary centralized organization and an enormous outlay of means and manpower, not much is known: how long they were built, which and how many people worked on them, the organization of the work, where they were carved, and, last but not least, the original arrangement within the temple of Amenhotep III.

The lecture on 4 May will be a valuable opportunity to introduce the non-specialist public to the complexity, the peculiarity and the results so far of the research and study work on this grandiose archaeological project, which also involved an interesting technological component.



Journalists and media workers who wish to attend must apply within 24 hours of the event via the Holy See Press Office online accreditation system, at: press.vatican.va/accreditamenti