A new underground room has been discovered in the Domus Aurea, or Golden Palace of Emperor Nero. Archaeologists dubbed it the 'Sphinx Room' as it is decorated with colourful animal frescoes, including images of panthers, centaurs, griffins and a sphinx. The room also has frescoes dedicated to various flora, aquatic animals and the god Pan.
The palace was commissioned by Nero after the great fire of Rome in 64 AD which burnt down large swathes of the city, including much of the Palatine Hill. The palatial complex was so large that at one point it covered three of Rome's seven hills.
The 2,000-year-old room was discovered last year by chance while a restoration team was mounting scaffolding and repairing an adjacent room. At the start of 2019 the restoration team began their salvage and restoration work. Much of the room is still buried under earth and rubble, and the restoration team believes it may be difficult to remove it all without damaging the structural integrity of the room and the entire palace itself. Archaeologists dated the Sphinx Room between 65 and 68 AD.
Alfonsina Russo, the head of the Colosseum archaeological park in which the Golden House resides, said it was “an exceptional and thrilling find”.
The Golden Palace was said to have had a revolving dining room, and baths that were built later by the Emperor Trajan. Much of the Golden Palace was destroyed in the centuries following Nero's death.