Abstract The so-called ‘Coptic’ limestone sculptures and reliefs of the Sheikh Ibada group were originally thought to date from Egypt’s Late Roman and Early Byzantine periods, but are now considered to be modern forgeries by most scholars. This conclusion is based on their anomalous stylistic characteristics. The limestone from which these objects are carved has not been previously studied, however. Such a study was undertaken for 31 objects in the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Coptic collection. The objective was to locate the geographic source(s) of the limestone varieties through identification of the geologic formation(s) that supplied them. Most of the limestone almost certainly comes from Egypt’s Mokattam Formation, which is widely distributed within and beyond the Nile Valley from Cairo in the north to Maghagha 160 km to the south. The limestone for four of the objects could have come from other formations further south but may also originate from the Mokattam. It is within the part of Egypt where Mokattam outcrops occur that most of the demonstrably genuine Coptic limestone sculptures and reliefs have been excavated. The modern forgers who copied these ancient works used the same limestone and probably had their workshops within the Mokattam region.
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