Orichalcum: Legendary Metal of Atlantis, Or Just A Common Ore?
Earlier this year, several world news organizations reported that archaeologists had recently recovered 39 ingots of orichalcum from a 2,600-year-old shipwreck, found ten feet underwater off the coast of Sicily, near the town of Gela. (For those not familiar with the name, according to Plato, orichalcum was a type of copper broadly used by the legendary Atlantians.)
Not surprisingly, while the ancient cargo provided the basis to every news report, unfortunately, none of the stories exposed anything new on Atlantis, or on the "mystical" ore, as one reporter called it. Essentially, every editorial capitalized on repeating the same familiar story, raising the usual questions, and sadly arriving at the same past conclusions. Nothing new! As for the particular freight, most reporters connected it to Atlantis, as if Atlantis was around during the Bronze Age (thus, misleading everyone not so familiar with the story) and ignoring the fact that according to Plato, the story of Atlantis took place around 9,600 BC.
While titles like "Atlantis' gold", and statements such as, "...the ancient shipment proves that Atlantis did exist", without a doubt capture peoples imagination, the truth is, there is nothing mystical, or unusual about orichalcum, as various newspapers, magazines, and the media seem to imply at every opportunity. In fact, the particular shipment of orichalcum found off the coast of Sicily most likely originated from the Greek island of Cyprus, in the eastern Mediterranean. Historically, since the 4th millennium BC, Cyprus is known to have produced every copper variation known to man, including orichalcum, essentially a mixture of copper and zinc, with small traces of nickel and iron.
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2,600-year-old shipwreck found off the coast of Sicily
During the Bronze Age, and especially prior to the 7th century BC, records show that the word orichalcum, which originates from the Greek name oreichalkos (literally meaning "mountain copper") may have been what the early Greeks called copper (all variations of it).
Prior to the 5th century BC, as the Greeks ruled the eastern Mediterranean, orichalcum, a term which by the way may have also originated in Cyprus, was essentially a common product used not only by the Greeks, but by those who traded with them as well.
Historically, the word orichalcum began to fade and nearly disappeared from the Mediterranean vocabulary after the Romans became the new masters of the region. Several Greek names, including that of oreichalkos were, in time, replaced with their Latin counterparts. (Eventually, even the ancient Greeks modified the original name and oreichalkos was ultimately shortened to chalkos, a name that is still in use today.)
Cadmus, the Greek mythological figure who is said to have created orichalcum ( Wikipedia)
During the Roman period, Cyprus (Kypros in Greek) continued to be the number one source of copper for the entire region. So much copper was actually extracted out of Cyprus during the Roman era, the Romans originally named the ore after the island itself, "aes Cyprium" (meaning metal of Cyprus), a phrase that ultimately replaced the Greek word orichalcum. Over time the short phrase was simplified to "cuprum" (copper in Latin), and in modern days that changed to "copper", the English version of the Latin name.
What is most interesting about this name, though, is that while many experts and scholars are still debating on the origins and/or composition of orichalcum, it is worth mentioning that even to this day, more than three thousand years later, the Greek population of Cyprus still calls the local produced copper oreichalkos (orichalcum, if you prefer).
For more on Atlantis, you may also read "Atlantis Revealed: Plato's Cautionary Tale Was Based on a Real Setting!"
Featured image: O richalcum ingots found off the coast of Gela in Sicily. Credit: Opinión Bolivia
From the book " Uchronia? Atlantis Revealed "