Image: Sphinx
Riccardo De Luca  /  AP
Italian archaeologists and officials on Tuesday gather around what appears to be a white headless sphinx at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, near Rome.
updated 2/8/2006 11:50:25 AM ET 2006-02-08T16:50:25

Archaeologists who have been digging for more than a year at the villa of Roman Emperor Hadrian in Tivoli have unearthed a monumental staircase, a statue of an athlete and what appears to be a headless sphinx.

The findings were presented Tuesday by government officials who described the discoveries as extremely important for understanding the layout of the ruins. The staircase is believed to be the original entrance to the villa, which was built for Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D.

So far, 15 steps, each 27 feet wide (8 meters wide), have been identified — and archaeologists did not rule out uncovering more.

Officials said that the newly uncovered area of the site, northeast of Rome, would be open to the public within a year.

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