Police save ancient Egyptian sculpture in Italy

By the Associated Press | December 6, 2012 | 10:34 AM EST

This photo provided Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 by the Italian Finance police shows an Egyptian sphinx confiscated by police from a greenhouse near Rome. On Thursday Italian Finance police found an ancient Egyptian sphinx, measuring 120 cm (47 inches) long and 60 cm (23 inches) tall, believed to date back to the Ptolemaic Era, between the IV and the I century B.C, hidden in a greenhouse, already packed in a case and allegedly ready to be smuggled abroad. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Italian Finance police, ho)

ROME (AP) — An Egyptian granite sculpture of a sphinx that risked ending up on the black market for antiquities is destined instead for a Rome museum.

Italian Tax Police Maj. Massimo Rossi says the sphinx, perhaps as old as the 4th century B.C., was found on the outskirts of Rome last week. It was in a box hidden in a greenhouse near an ancient Etruscan necropolis.

Rossi said Thursday that the sphinx, which is roughly two feet tall and four feet long, likely adorned a 1st century B.C. Roman villa, in keeping with the fashion then for Egyptian sculpture as decoration.

He said an Italian and a Romanian are being investigated in the probe of suspected illicit trafficking in antiquities. Villa Giulia museum, which specializes in Etruscan antiquities, will host the sphinx.