Gleaming cast metal called orichalcum, which was said by Ancient Greeks to be found in Atlantis, has been recovered from a ship that sunk 2,600 years ago off the coast of Sicily.
The lumps of metal were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily, possibly coming from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship that was carrying them was likely caught in a storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port.
“The wreck dates to the first half of the sixth century,” Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily’s superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News. “It was found about 1,000 feet from Gela’s coast at a depth of 10 feet.”
He noted that the 39 ingots found on the sandy sea floor represent a unique finding.
“Nothing similar has ever been found,” Tusa said. “We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.”
Indeed orichalcum has long been considered a mysterious metal, its composition and origin widely debated.
According to the ancient Greeks, it was invented by Cadmus, a Greek-Phoenician mythological character. The fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Plato made orichalcum a legendary metal when he mentioned it in the Critias dialogue.
Describing Atlantis as flashing “with the red light of orichalcum,” he wrote that the metal, second only in value to gold, was mined in the mythical island and was used to cover Poseidon’s temple interior walls, columns and floors.
Today most scholars agree orichalcum is a brass-like alloy, which was made in antiquity by cementation. This process was achieved with the reaction of zinc ore, charcoal and copper metal in a crucible.
Analyzed with X-ray fluorescence by Dario Panetta, of TQ – Tecnologies for Quality, the 39 ingots turned to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 15-20 percent zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron.
Via Fred Lapides.