In the first part of this section various objects from the territory around Gubbio dating from the middle period of the Palaeolithic Era (120,000 – 80,000 years ago to the 4th century B.C.) are exhibited.
The most significant exhibits relating to these periods were found in tombs in burial sites. They consist of objects in pottery, bronze, iron, and precious materials denoting men and women belonging to the upper echelons of Gubbio society.
These were members of the warrior élite engaged in the commercial transactions between the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic coasts and linked to Greek and Etruscan practices and cultural models, such as the raising of the deceased warrior chief to heroic status (as shown by the presence of spearheads, javelins and axes besides other metal objects)or the banquet of Oriental origin, imported into Italy by the Greeks. This practice is attested by the presence, among the objects displayed in the collection, of vessels such as the bronze cauldron used to hold the flavoured wine and the examples of oenochoe (wine pourers) used to transfer wine into the drinking vessels. This type of object was a status symbol testifying to the social rank of the deceased person in whose tomb they were placed.
The items displayed here bear witness to the spread of Graeco-Roman culture and, from the IV century B.C. on, the assimilation of the territory around Gubbio into the sphere of Roman influence.
Among the objects on display, the black-glazed oenochoe, whose handle is in the form of a nude woman, stands out for the high quality of its modelling and artistic technique.
Also worthy of note are the coins from the Umbrian period of Gubbio belonging to the extremely rare group of coins coming from the communities of Ancient Umbria.
Not many remains of the public buildings survive but they are very significant, especially the Roman Theatre and the foundations of a temple in the vicinity of the Forum. On the other hand, there are numerous remains of private houses and a considerable amount of building materials used in them. In one of the showcases in this room are displayed just such architectural items and, in particular, materials relating to the roofing of ancient dwellings such as dripstones, cornices and “antefisse” (decorative projections placed along the edge of the tiles).
The exhibits in terracotta are household vessels used for cooking or to carry food and drink: plates, bowls, drinking vessels, jars, dolia, and amphorae.
The last items on display in this room include some objects relating to personal hygiene like the unguentaria,(ointment pots) phials and a strigil, an instrument used to scrape the body clean. This type of activity would normally be carried out at the Baths which were veritable recreational centres where physical exercises could be performed and where there were also steam baths and pools of water at different temperatures for bathing in.
On display in this room are examples of portrait statuary featuring sculptings of deceased or living aristocrats which show a definite attempt at characterization through highly realistic likenesses.
The exhibits also comprise some sculptures which once decorated the Roman Theatre in Gubbio: the head of a Muse, with a flowing head of hair, and a headless marble statue in a heroic pose. This may have portrayed an emperor as the cult of emperor worship was mainly celebrated in this magnificent civic arena.
Religious rites from Roman Times are illustrated by the exhibits in this room, with a number of epigraphic items testifying to the existence in Iguvium of various shrines dedicated to the ancient Italic gods, Liber Pater and Silvano.
The exhibition next proposes an examination of funeral practices. On view in the showcase are a set of funeral objects from a child’s tomb located near the “Vittorina”, site of one of the necropoli in the area surrounding the town.
In the last showcase are some especially important exhibits denoting the spread of cults imported from the East, in particular the one dedicated to the goddess Isis, which co-existed with the more traditional official pagan cults. One such exhibit is the little bronze figure of Arpocrate, dating from between the II and III centuries A.D., typically Egyptian in its iconography (in fact the figure can be identified as the god Horus, son of Isis and Osiris).
The deity is seated, and is wearing an Egyptian headdress (pschent) and has one finger raised to his mouth in a sign which could signify an invitation to silence. Another interesting object, again associated with the cult of Isis, is the marble sculpture of a man whose head is shaven or completely bald, and who has a cross carved on the upper right-hand side of his forehead.
The archaeological section also houses the Coin Collection which covers the period from Ancient Umbria to Modern Times. The oldest exhibits are of Umbrian coinage dating from the first half if the III century B.C. known to have been minted in Gubbio, in Todi and maybe in Amelia. In fact, both Gubbio and Todi when establishing themselves as urban centres began to mint coins, adopting the same types and weights as those used in the neighbouring districts of Etruria. Ikuvium had two main series of aes grave ( large coins of smelted bronze): the “Sun” series and the “Cornucopia”. In addition to the Umbrian exhibits there are also Roman coins from both the Republican and Imperial Eras.
From the former period, the Museum has an almost complete series of smelted bronze coins featuring the “ Prow of a Ship”(III century B.C.) and minted coins (II-I century B.C.)with the names of the magistrates in charge of coinage; there are fewer examples from Imperial times dating from between the Augustan Age (end 1st century B.C.- early 1st century A.D.) until the 5th century A.D. A great number of Medieval coins have been found around Gubbio; in 1948 a cache of 934 11th century coins minted in Lucca was unearthed. In modern times the Gubbio mint produced coins for the Duchy of Urbino from the first half of 15th century until the first half of 17th, thus becoming one of the principal mints in the Duchy. During the Papal domination, the Gubbio mint continued to be active between 1646 and 1799. The collection boasts examples of coins from almost all the Pontificates. Gubbio was chosen because of its centrality which enabled coins to be easily distributed throughout the provinces of the Papal States and beyond.