A new look on Imperial Porphyry: a famous ancient dimension stone from the Eastern Desert of Egypt—petrogenesis and cultural relevance

Mahrous M. Abu El-Enen, Joachim Lorenz, Kamal A. Ali, Volker von Seckendorff, Martin Okrusch, Ulrich Schüssler, Helene Brätz, Ralf Thomas Schmitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Imperial Porphyry, a famous dimension stone of spectacular purple color, was quarried in the Mons Porphyrites area north of Jabal Dokhan in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, from the beginning of the first until the middle of the fifth century AD. During this period, the valuable material was processed as decorative stone and was used for objects of art, reserved exclusively for the Imperial court of the Roman Empire. Later on, only antique spoils of smaller or bigger size have been re-used for these purposes. The Imperial Porphyry is a porphyritic rock of trachyandesitic to dacitic composition that occurs in the uppermost levels of shallow subvolcanic sill-like intrusions, forming a member of the Dokhan Volcanic Suite. Its purple color is mainly due to dispersed flakes of hematite, resulting from hydrothermal alteration of a dark green Common Porphyry of similar composition, underlying the Imperial Porphyry. Both, the Common Porphyry and the purple Imperial Porphyry’, are extensively exposed in the Roman quarries. Contacts between Common and Imperial Porphyry are irregular and gradational. In both rock types, intrusive breccias are frequent, indicating a complex intrusion history. U–Th–Pb zircon geochronology on two samples of Imperial Porphyry and one sample of the Common Porphyry yielded an age range of 609–600 Ma, thus confirming earlier results of radiometric dating. Geochemical evidence indicates that both the Imperial and the Common Porphyry are of medium- to high-K calc-alkaline affinity. The magmas have formed by partial melting of a subduction-modified upper mantle. The subsequent intrusion took place within a highly extended terrane (HET).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2393-2408
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural relevance
  • Dokhan Volcanics
  • Eastern Desert
  • Imperial Porphyry
  • Petrogenesis
  • U–Pb zircon age dating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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