Police save ancient Egyptian sculpture in Italy

The Egyptian sphinx dating from the Ptolemaic era was found hidden in a greenhouse, already packed in a case and allegedly ready to be smuggled abroad.

ROME — 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 fourth 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 2 feet tall and 4 feet long, likely adorned a first 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.