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When we took on the job of consolidating and conserving Room 34 of the Domus Aurea, the tasks and difficulties to be tackled seemed fairly circumscribed.
The morphology of the archaeological monument, and the complexity and number of consolidation interventions – planned and underway – entail a need for particularly careful health and safety management in accordance with the most stringent current legislation (Italian legislative decree no. 81/08, no. 106/09 as amended).
In September-November 2012, we carried out an archaeological sounding in the sector of the Oppian Hill park above the outer surface of Trajanic Galleries 20A and 20B. The study was aimed at understanding the external layout and construction features of the ancient vaults, with a view both to reconstructing the missing parts and to defining the new external protection system for the monument. Below we publish the preliminary results of the archaeological study.
On Wednesday 23 January, we met at the Domus; it was raining heavily and this always worries us because of percolation into the interior and the safety of the workers. Luckily, in the late morning the sky cleared and the sun came out. During the first half of the morning our meeting concerned the progress of the project for the new layout of the park area above the monument.
The first “Conservation Plan for the Monument” (Preliminary project report and definitive project), developed from an idea by A. Vodret, was drawn up by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma in March 2011 and written by F. Filippi, A. Vodret, I. Sciortino, E. Segala and M. Pesce. It was then presented to the Technical Committees for Archaeological, Architectural and Landscape Heritage of the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBAC). Subsequently, those parts of the project concerning the consolidation of structures and decorations, and the tests for the proposed new arrangement of the waterproof roof were launched.
The problematic coexistence of the botanical features of the Oppian Hill and the underground archaeological structures of Trajan’s Baths and the Domus Aurea is well known.
The plants on the Trajanic Terrace date to the arrangement designed in several stages by A. Munoz in the 1930s and include:
From 2006, the East Wing of the Domus Aurea, centred around the famous Octagonal Room, was the site of works undertaken by the Commissioner appointed to urgently secure the Domus Aurea by Directive no. 3541 of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of 18 August 2006. After a research and planning phase, the first consolidation interventions (1st batch) began in 2010. These works, directed by the Commissioner L. Marchetti, entailed consolidating vertical walls and jack arches, alongside structural and microclimatic monitoring, concentrated in the East Wing of the monument. With the Directive of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers no. 4017 of 25 April 2012 the state of emergency ceased and responsibility for the whole monument and its management, with the remaining funds, was returned to the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, which in the meantime had continued to work in the West Wing as well as acting to safeguard the monument.
In recent years, our understanding of Nero’s residence on the Oppian Hill has significantly improved with the acquisition of new data supplied by archaeological research organized in the East Wing by the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma (SSBAR) from 2000 onwards.