Sparkling ingots made of orichalcum and thought to be from the lost city of Atlantis have been found and retrieved off the ocean floor near the coast of Sicily.
The metal was recovered from a ship that sunk more than 2,600 years ago. The metal, orichalucum, was believed by the Ancient Greeks to have been found in only one place: the lost city of Atlantis.
Experts believe that the ingots from Atlantis were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily - possibly being delivered from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship carrying the metal was most likely caught in a storm and sunk just as it was about to enter a Sicilian port.
Sicily's superintendent of the Sea Office, Sebastiano Tusa, spoke about the shipwreck and the discovery.
"The wreck dates to the first half of the sixth century.It was found about 1,000 feet from Gela's coast at a depth of 10 feet. Nothing similar has ever been found. We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects."
Most experts agree today that orichalcum is a brass-like alloy which was actually made by cementation. This is a process whereby zinc ore, charcoal and copper metal are combined in a crucible. When analyzed with X-ray fluorescence, the 39 ingots of Atlantis metal turned out to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 14-20 percent zinc and smaller percentages of nickel, lead and iron.
Tusa commented on the importance of the discovery.
"The finding confirms that about a century after its foundation in 689 B.C., Gela grew to become a wealthy city with artisan workshops specialized in the production of prized artifacts."
As of yet, however, Atlantis has remained hidden, if it ever existed at all. Is the orichalcum discovered near Sicily evidence of Atlantis? And if not, why was the metal so rarely used in the ancient world if it was so beautiful? Perhaps one day we'll know the answers.
[Image via Donald Derek]