The curious false wall
When it was excavated, some time between 1956 and 1958, the alcove at the end was blocked off by a tufa wall and nobody suspected there was anything behind it, but one day a block fell out, revealing a space behind. The tufa wall was removed.
Why was it hidden?
All that was revealed was decoration in 3rd or 4th Pompeian style. This indicates a date between 20 BC and 79 AD.
The central panel would have been highly painted, yet Paget descibes it as having been deliberately erased, scoured over to remove the top stucco. The decoration outside the central panel does not show such abrasion.
Why erase a picture and then block it off with a wall? What was so offensive it had to be erased first? The painting was clearly later than the Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus decree of 186 BC, suppressing Bacchic, ie Orphic, cults.
Paget photographed the panel with every kind of coloured filter and infra-red, yet could detect no trace of what the original picture may have shown.
Below the panel in this alcove is a shallow trench in the mosaic floor, about 1 inch deep (25.4mm) and 10 inches wide (254mm). It has a thin white border with lines of black and yellow mosaic. What was this trench for?
The probe hole in the upper end of the wall showed no sign of any room behind the painted room, although there is space for one between here and the tank further back.
There is a marble doorstep between this room and Big D, indicating that they were interconnecting.
The exterior court
In front of the Painted room is a court with two D-shaped baths. Big D also had direct access to this court. The court and its baths are aligned the same way as the buildings against the cliff and appear to be part of the overall design of this set of buildings.
The court was originally tiled in a variety of different coloured marbles. In the south west corner are four marble blocks that appear to have been the feet of a table. Paget saw this as being some kind of sacrificial area against a backdrop of Vesuvius in the distance. If this was indeed the site of the Oracle of the Dead, then we do know that sacrifices were insisted upon.