Brazilian Egyptologist Cláudio Prado de Mello is building the first National Egyptology Institute in Brazil. It will operate in a building, in Rio de Janeiro, that is inspired on an Egyptian construction of the Mamluk dynasty, which ruled Egypt between 1235 and 1517 AD.
"The institute was born from the need to try to organize Egyptology in Brazil. There is a very expressive number of people interested in learning about Egypt," stated Mello.
In 1990 a group of Brazilian historians and archaeologists decided to establish the institute in Rio de Janeiro. According to Mello, the organization was established focussing on the Islamic world, but the visitors are also going to have access to other cultures.
The Egyptian complex, which has three stories, is going to house around 15 rooms where over 900 items will be exhibited and a library with 25,000 titles.
Eleven rooms will house permanent exhibits, covering the formation of the earth; the first civilizations; classic cultures, like the Greek and Roman; the Byzantine culture and the Islamic world; Pre-Columbian cultures, like the Incas, Aztecs and Mayas; South American baroque art; culture of the Far East; Medieval, Renaissance and primitive Art.
"The institute will be a house of culture to include in its structure references to Islamic architecture, but the objective will be to show culture in general. It will be a museum crossing all phases of humanity," explained Mello.
Apart from the permanent rooms, the institute will include three temporary exhibition rooms. "In an exhibition we must make people understand and collect the largest amount of information possible. Temporary exhibitions also create greater interest in those who visit them," he said.
Among the objects to be exhibited at the institute are vases from almost five thousand years ago, sets of artefacts from Syrian prehistory, Byzantine icons, Greek and Roman vases, rare books from the 18th and 19th centuries, stamps from Mesopotamia and fossils of the whole world.
"All of our items will be original," stated Mello. However, the archaeologist will also have mock-ups and miniatures of some Roman columns and other items that may show an idea of the reality of each time.
According to Mello, the idea of creating an Egyptian complex of the Mamluk dynasty arose in 1996 when the archaeologist travelled to Cairo and entered a mausoleum of the last sultan of the period, Al-Ghouri.
He was fascinated by the architecture of the site. "I could not imagine that there was such a beautiful building as that one, with such delicate work. That perplexed me. How can a human being have made something so rich?" asked Mello.
According to the archaeologist, the Mamluks came from a humble past, they were slaves, thus the need to show off and spend the riches won. "The sultans of this dynasty spent much money on works, and did not make simple constructions," explained Mello.
The mausoleum Mello visited had a floor entirely made out of marble and a gold-plated ceiling. "The floor at the institute is also made out of marble, and in the same color as the original," he said. The complex has a total of 2,000 square meters (22,000 square feet).
The entire cost of the project is being covered by the archaeologist, who could not find sponsorship. He has already invested US$ 200,000 in the project.
"I have been building this site alone for three years. It is very expensive. I believe that with around another US$ 70,000 I could finish," said Mello, who is still waiting for financial support.
According to him, the institute is already of international renown and when it is ready will run for the Prince Claus Foundation award, granted by the government of Holland, whose objective is awarding vanguard cultural movements in developing countries.
Mello is graduated in archaeology and is post-graduated in Ancient and Medieval History by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and also teaches groups of students interested in expanding their knowledge of ancient Egypt.
The archaeologist has already travelled to Egypt a few times and even participated in excavations in the Arab country together with a group of French archaeologists.
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