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Italian police recover stolen sphinx

00:33 Fri Dec 7 2012
AAP

Italian police say they have recovered a 2000-year-old Egyptian sphinx statue that was stolen from a necropolis near Rome and was about to be smuggled out of the country.

"The investigation began with a random check of an industrial vehicle during which police found a decorative ceramic object from an excavation as well as many photos of the Egyptian sculpture," the police said in a statement.

A search of the driver's residence turned up the statue from the Ptolemaic era (4th-1st centuries BC) packed into a crate and hidden in a greenhouse.

The statue is believed to have been stolen from the Etruscan necropolis of Montem Rossulum near Viterbo, some 100 kilometres from Rome.

The police "prevented the sculpture, as well as a series of ancient objects from being put on the clandestine international market," the statement said.

The granite statue measures 120 centimetres and 60 centimetres.

Egyptian sculptures began to be shipped to Italy following the Roman conquest of Egypt in the 1st century BC.