Rome unveils ancient luxury complex

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 11:22 AM

Italian officials unveiled new discoveries Thursday in an ancient Roman luxury complex filled with priceless mosaics, elegant porticos and thermal baths.

The 1,800 square-meter (2,000 square-yard) complex, dating from the 2nd to 4th centuries, has been excavated intermittently since 2004, when the ruins were accidentally discovered during the renovation of a Renaissance palazzo that stands above them.

In the latest excavation, which began in March, archaeologists uncovered a palatial room decorated with precious marble and a colorful mosaic made with half a million tiles brought from all over the Roman Empire.

They also found a "frigidarium" _ a cold pool that was part of the baths built into the exclusive complex located just by the Forum constructed by Emperor Trajan.

Consolidation and restoration of these halls has given experts better understanding of how Roman baths functioned, archaeologists said in a statement.

The 16th century Palazzo Valentini, which sits on top of the ruins in downtown Rome, houses local government offices. The ancient complex will be open to the public from Friday through Jan. 6, before closing again for further exploration.

A multimedia museum has been built on the site to show visitors how it looked like originally through audio explanations and virtual reality reconstructions projected on the walls.

"The site is almost exactly as we found it," said physicist Paco Lanciano, one of the creators of the museum. "We wanted to respect its authenticity."