Coptic is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet – an adaptation of the Greek script with some letters inherited from Demotic – in the 1st century AD. The new writing system became the Coptic script, an adapted Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from the demotic script to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have.
There are about 18 million Coptic Orthodox Christians in the world worshipping at churches where Coptic is still used during the services. They are mainly situated in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea, but are represented in many other areas and countries.
My interest in Coptic began after purchasing a kitabe - a roll of parchment bearing religious Coptic texts - that was carried by a person from puberty until death. The length of the roll was usually the same as the height of the wearer. These are often grave-goods and some people, understandably, are wary of handling them. But when you think of it, almost the majority of archaeological finds are from graves, but possibly a kitabe is more personal. I did have such misgivings when I obtained a mummified hand, but they soon disappeared, as did the hand when my wife thought it too ghoulish.


  • Davies Antiques
  • M. Ayers
  • Alan E. Cole
  • MWRC