This room might look worthy of pharaohs, but it was built more than eighteen centuries after the last one died. Found in a villa in northern Italy, it's a strange memorial to an Egyptian obsession from three hundred years ago.
These walls were discovered while renovations were being done on the town hall of the village Casalbuttano ed Uniti. As the workers removed the tapestry in one of the rooms, they discovered this amazing sight. As you can see, the walls are painted in colors associated with ancient Egypt, hieroglyphs adorn the wall, and there are even a couple of Egyptian statues - or, at least, that's what you're meant to see. The statues are actually also painted on the wall, but thanks to some very clever artistry they appear three-dimensional.
Italy's Lombardy region is known for these faux-Egyptian motifs, but something on the scale of the Casalbuttano chamber had never been found before. It was likely commissioned by a local wealthy family right at the turn of the 19th century in the wake of Napoleon's attempt to conquer Egypt. The French army's foray into the region struck a chord with Europe, which went through its first bout of what's known as Egyptomania. The fascination with all things Egypt inspired this room.
The chamber isn't just remarkable for its scale - whoever the artist was, he or she did some seriously strange things with hieroglyphics. While most of the characters on the wall are real, they're arranged in nonsense patterns. The deity "statues" are also bizarre, blending traditional depictions with more obscure features.
The artist placed the lion-headed goddess Sekmet in an Etruscan chair - the Etruscans were the northern Italian forerunners of the Romans - which is adorned with nonsense characters. And despite getting right most of the features of the fertility goddess Taweret, the artist gave it a cow's tail instead of a crocodile's. These might all be errors, but without knowledge of what the artist was originally working from it's hard to say for certain.
In any event, the chamber is a remarkable tribute to the enduring appeal of ancient Egypt - it was just as fascinating 200 years ago as it is today, despite being 2000 years old, and there's no reason to think that won't still be true 200, 2000, or however many years from now.
Via Discovery News.