Ancient relics on the showroom floor

Rome - Alongside his racy German sedans, car dealer Antonio Barbieri has decided to exhibit the rare second century Roman sarcophagi which were discovered when the foundations were being dug for his new high-tech headquarters outside the northern Italian city of Modena.

Without realising it, Barbieri had chosen land covering a Roman necropolis, or city of the dead, when he decided to build his 9 000-square-metre showroom.

The discovery has set back the opening of the showroom to 2006, but as a keen amateur archeologist, Barbieri is not worried.

He plans to keep the necropolis as he found it and open it to the public free of charge.

"Our soil and our museums are full of such things," said Barbieri's wife, Maria Angela.

But the excavations, which were unveiled to the press on Saturday, "are arousing interest because of their very good state of preservation." - Sapa-AFP

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