di Francesco Musolino
Rome, December 6 - Italian police on Thursday recovered an antique Egyptian sphinx sculpture that was about to be exported out of Italy. The sphinx, recovered near an Etruscan necropolis, measures 120 x 60 cm and is made of African granite. Police found the object already wrapped and packed in a box and hidden in a greenhouse. According to investigators, the sphinx was probably part of the decorations of an Etruscan nobleman's tomb or country villa. Chance played a part in the find. Police uncovered the sphinx after a stopping a truck for a check and found it was carrying antique ceramics from an archaeological site along with a series of pictures which depicted the sphinx. After searching the driver's house, other elements related to the sphinx were found, all taken illegally from archaeological sites. Aside from its possible economic value, the presence of the sphinx is, according to experts, an indicator of the thriving trade that took place among Mediterranean countries. Italy began importing objects from Egypt around the 1st century BC, when Rome conquered the North African country. Trade grew during the imperial years, in particular between the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century AD.