A picture released by the Egyptian Antiq
Egyptian Council Of Antiquities  /  AFP - Getty Images
An ancient solar temple has been discovered beneath a flea market in a Cairo suburb.
updated 2/28/2006 1:33:17 PM ET 2006-02-28T18:33:17

Archaeologists discovered a pharaonic sun temple with large statues believed to be of King Ramses II under an outdoor marketplace in Cairo, Egypt's antiquities chief said Sunday.

The partially uncovered site is the largest sun temple ever found in the capital's Aim Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis — the center of pharaonic sun worship — was located, Zahi Hawass told The Associated Press.

Among the artifacts was a pink granite statue weighing 4 to 5 tons whose features "resemble those of Ramses II," said Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Also found was a 5-foot-high (1.5-meter-high) statue of a seated figure with hieroglyphics that include three tablets with the name of Ramses II — and the 3-ton head from a royal statue, the council said in a statement.

The green pavement stones of the temple's floor were also uncovered.

An Egyptian team working in cooperation with the German Archaeological Mission in Egypt discovered the site under the Souq al-Khamis, a popular market in eastern Cairo, Hawass said.

"The market has to be removed" as archaeologists excavate the entire site, Hawass said.

King Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 B.C., had erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements, as well as building temples — including Abu Simbel, erected near what is now Egypt's southern border.

Numerous temples to Egypt's sun gods — particularly the chief god Ra — were built in ancient Heliopolis.  But little remains of what was once the ancient Egyptians' most sacred cities, since much of the stone used in the temples was later plundered.

The area is now covered with residential neighborhoods, close to a modern district called Heliopolis, in Egypt's packed capital.

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