The palethnology collections comprise some 13,000 items coming mostly from Bronze Age and Iron Age sites in the Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Emilia Romagna and Lombardy regions of Italy, and from other central, southern and island locations of the country.
The finds from the Friuli area are particularly significant and abundant in number. They include many artefacts made of stone, also tools and ornaments of bone, horn and bronze, and pottery shards, unearthed during excavations in caves and caverns of the Carso area.
The dates of this material cover a wide arc: from the lower Paleolithic to the Bronze Age, comprising items datable, in any event, to the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Copper Ages.
Other Friulian finds come from excavations of burial sites, like the Paleovenetian necropolis of San Pietro al Natisone. These date from the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the early Roman era.
Many prehistoric finds of indubitable museum value come from hill forts, settlements typical of North-East Italy and Istria that date back to the late Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
A large part of the palethnology collection (more than 1000 pieces) consists of material from excavations of the stilt house at Ledro, in the south-west of the Trentino region. Systematic exploration of the area began in 1937, under the direction of Raffaello Battaglia in collaboration with the Tridentine Museum of Natural Sciences. With the aid of radiocarbon dating, it was possible to date the colonisation of the lake by stilt-house dwellers to a period between the early and middle stages of the Bronze Age (1900 – 1200 BC approximately); thereafter, it seems the settlement was abandoned not least as the result of a fire.
The finds from Ledro include numerous wooden structures — mostly house stilts — artefacts of stone, flint, deer antler and bone, pottery, fragments of fabric, plant seeds and remnants of food, along with an abundance of osteological faunal remains (bear, wild boar, deer).
Other specimens of the palethnology collection, by contrast, come from neighbouring countries — France, Switzerland, Austria, the former Yugoslavia and Greece — also from Mediterranean Africa (Tunisia, Egypt, Somalia), Arabia and North America.
The collections also comprise an Egyptian mummy and sarcophagus of the Ptolemaic period, and other mummified fragments of human and animal bodies. Scholars believe that this is the same mummy which — reportedly — “in 1835, Giuseppe Acerbi, former Consul General of Austria in Egypt” intended donating to the University of Padua along with other objects.