Construction work by the Ministry of Endowments was carried out last week at the Al-Khamis market in the Matariya area in northern Cairo, in violation of laws relating to antiquities.
A large section of the souq was dug to a depth of four metres in order to construct a stone wall, and the debris was left covering another piece of land.
Although the land is in the possession of the Ministry of Endowments, it is under the supervision of the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) as there may be undiscovered antiquities located in the area. Matariya was a renowned religious centre during the pharaonic era, as well as in Graeco-Roman and Coptic times, when it was known as Heliopolis.
All construction work has since stopped, and the antiquities ministry has reported the complaint to the tourism and antiquities police for further investigation.
During his routine shift, the souq's security guard stumbled upon an 18th dynasty religious stele within the debris.
Antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim stated that the stele is carved out of limestone and bears three lines of hieroglyphic text. The first line reveals the name of the purification priest at the temple of the God Re in ancient Heliopolis. The second and third lines have not yet been deciphered as the section has deteriorated somewhat, but the name of goddess Hathor can be read.
The stele is currently being studied by experts at the Matariya archaeological lab.