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Police recover ancient Egyptian sphinx in Italy

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This photo provided Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 by the Italian Finance police shows an Egyptian sphinx confiscated by police from a greenhouse near Rome.AP/Italian Finance Police

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.