The term porphyry is taken from an ancient Greek word for purple. The present mortar is made from a variety found only on Mount Porphyrites in Egypt. Highly prized by the ancient civilisation for its rich reddish-purple hue it was first mined in c4-c3 BC for the production of sarcophagi and stelae exclusively for the Ptolemaic rulers. When Egypt was later under the umbrella of the Roman Empire it was reserved solely for Imperial use. Columns, slabs and other architectural fragments later excavated from Roman ruins, were commonly re-carved into a variety ornaments. In the present case, being an extremely hard wearing igneous rock, it was deemed an ideal material for the purposes of a domestic or apothecary mortar.