Sphinx Room at Nero's Domus Aurea re-emerges after 2,000 yrs

Experts chanced upon discovery during restoration work

(ANSA) - Rome, May 8 - A beautifully decorated room has been discovered at Emperor Nero's famed Domus Aurea (Golden House) in Rome and brought back to light after 2,000 years. The hall is decorated with panthers, centaurs and a delightful sphinx. Experts chanced upon the room while they were doing restoration work on the vault of a neighbouring part of the palace. "It is the fruit of our strategy that focuses on conservation and scientific research," said Alfonsina Russo, the head of the Colosseum archaeological park that the Domus Aurea belongs to.
    The discovery was revealed to ANSA first.
    "It is an exceptional and thrilling find," Russo told reporters.
    The discovery was made in the last few months of last year, archaeologists and restorers told ANSA.
    It was made thanks to a platform erected to restore the vault of room 72 od the sprawling and sumptuous complex, one of the 150 rooms hitherto rediscovered in the grand House the controversial emperor built in 64 AD after the great fire that devastated Rome, in which he is generally but erroneously said to have fiddled.
    "We came across a large opening positioned in the northern corner of the covering of the room," said Alessandro D'Alessio, the official in charge of the Domus Aurea.
    The lamps the restorers had at their disposal did the rest, he said in describing the magical moment of discovery.
    "Lit up by the artificial light, there suddenly appeared the entire barrel vault of a completely frescoed adjacent room", he said.
    The restorers immediately decided to salvage the new room, with an intervention that ended at the start of this year, d'Alessio said.
    Much of the room, which is rectangular and covered in rich decoration including the vault, is still unfortunately underground, buried by tonnes of earth on the orders of the architects of Emperor Trajan, who built luxurious baths over Nero's former palace, archaeologists said.
    It will remain so, they said, because of fears for the stability of the complex.
    Among the decorations, on a white background, are elegant small figures divided into pictures bordered in red and golden yellow.
    In one scene we see the god Pan, in another a man armed with a sword, quiver and shield who is fighting a panther, and in another the small sphinx that is standing out on a pedestal, officials said.
    There are also stylized aquatic creatures, both real and imagined, architectural motifs of the time, vegetal garlands and branches of trees with delicate green, yellow, red leaves, as well as festoons of flowers and fruit and posing birds.
    This type of decoration, which is also found in the Domus on the Colle Oppio and in other rooms of the Golden House including the Cryptoporticus 92, has led experts to attribute the Room of the Sphinx to the so-called A Workshop, which operated between 65 and 68 AD.


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