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Artist's depiction of the sunken city of Atlantis

Rare orichalcum metal said to be from the legendary Atlantis recovered from 2,600-year-old shipwreck

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A team of marine archaeologists have discovered several dozen ingots scattered across the sandy sea floor near a 2,600-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Sicily. The ingots were made from orichalcum, a rare cast metal which ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote was from the legendary city of Atlantis. 

According to Inquisitr, a total of 39 ingots (metal cast into rectangular blocks) were found close to a shipwreck in 2015. In 2017, Seeker reported another cache of the same metal was found. There were 47 more ingots discovered, for a total of 86 metal pieces found to date.

The shipwreck itself was found in 1988 lying in shallow waters about 300 meters (1,000ft) off the coast of Gela in Sicily. Gela was a rich city at the time of the shipwreck and it had many workshops that produced fine objects. Researchers believe the orichalcum pieces were destined for those workshops when the ship sank.

Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily’s superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News that the precious ingots were probably being brought to Sicily from Greece or Asia Minor.

2,600-year-old shipwreck found off the coast of Sicily

2,600-year-old shipwreck found off the coast of Sicily

Tusa said that the discovery of orichalcum ingots, long considered a mysterious metal, is  significant as “nothing similar has ever been found.” He added, "We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.” According to a Daily Telegraph report, the ingots have been analyzed and found to be made of about 75-80 per cent copper, 14-20 per cent zinc and a scattering of nickel, lead and iron.

The name orichalucum derives from the Greek word oreikhalkos, meaning literally "mountain copper" or "copper mountain". According to Plato’s 5 th century BC Critias dialogue, orichalucum was considered second only to gold in value, and was found and mined in many parts of the legendary Atlantis in ancient times.

Plato wrote that , the three outer walls of the Temple to Poseidon and Cleito on Atlantis were clad respectively with brass, tin, and the third, which encompassed the whole citadel, "flashed with the red light of orichalcum". The interior walls, pillars and floors of the temple were completely covered in orichalcum, and the roof was variegated with gold, silver, and orichalcum. In the center of the temple stood a pillar of orichalcum, on which the laws of Poseidon and records of the first son princes of Poseidon were inscribed. (Crit. 116–119)

The orichalucum ingots found off the coast of Gela in Sicily

The orichalucum ingots found off the coast of Gela in Sicily. Credit: Opinión Bolivia

For centuries, experts have hotly debated the metal’s composition and origin. According to the ancient Greeks, orichalcum was invented by Cadmus, a Greek-Phoenician mythological character. Cadmus was the founder and first king of Thebes, the acropolis of which was originally named Cadmeia in his honor.

Cadmus, the Greek mythological figure who is said to have created orichalcum

Cadmus, the Greek mythological figure who is said to have created orichalcum (Wikipedia)

Orichalcum has variously been held to be a gold-copper alloy, a copper-tin, or copper-zinc brass, or a metal no longer known. However, in Vergil's Aeneid it was mentioned that the breastplate of Turnus was "stiff with gold and white orachalc" and it has been theorized that it is an alloy of gold and silver, though it is not known for certain what orichalcum was.

The Fight between Aeneas and King Turnus

The breast plate of Turnus was said to be made with gold and white 'orachalc’'  'The Fight between Aeneas and King Turnus' by Giacomo del Po, Italy, Naples, 1652-1726. (Wikimedia Commons)

Orichalcum is also mentioned in the ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ (1 st century AD) - Book VIII, sect. 88 by Josephus, who stated that the vessels in the Temple of Solomon were made of orichalcum (or a bronze that was like gold in beauty).

Today, some scholars suggest that orichalcum is a brass-like alloy, which was made in antiquity the process of cementation, which was achieved through the reaction of zinc ore, charcoal and copper metal in a crucible.

The latest discovery of the orichalcum ingots that had laid for nearly three millennia on the sea floor may finally unravel the mystery of the origin and composition of this enigmatic metal.

Featured image:  Artist’s depiction of the sunken city of Atlantis. Source: Fotolia

By April Holloway



chris6a2's picture

There is a problem with the original link, we have removed it from the article and will make the update once the link is back up and running. 

Why is it that when I click on this Discovery News link it redirects to Is this some kind of a joke article? There is no

Modern science is so lacking in what comprised the human past, it would be fair to say, today humanity is just emerging from another dark age. There were literally scores of elements the periodical table is lacking. First of all, the study of alchemical sciences has become so diluted, it is now considered mostly a myth. Alchemy today is believe to have been just a quest for immortality and method for changing lead to gold, but in reality, it was much, much more. True alchemy is now a lost science that involved not only forgotten energies and elements, it also involved magnetics, (both attractive and REPULSIVE) characteristics of elements long forgotten. Not only has pure orichalcum evaded modern fabrication, it will remain so because modern science is ignorant of what is necessary for, or how to produce it

There is bauxite in Greece, and the "Aiud Aluminum Wedge" artifact is very interesting. I think the orichalcum is an aluminum ore. It was lightweight, malleable and a good foil as weaponry combined with heavier gold.

It seems a bit presumptuous that they would call these ingots "orichalcum" if there is still some uncertainty as to what the substance was in reality. Even the etymology of the word is in question. It sounds plausible, but we have yet to find a way to verify the meaning of "mountain copper."

Why call it "orichalcum" if it is merely copper or a copper alloy? Was the word "orichalcum" imprinted on them? Or was the writer letting their imagination get the best of them?

If the shipwreck is only 2,600 years old, that would mean 600 BC, and far from the time of Atlantis -- 9600 BC. Too many researchers waffle over Plato's details. If we stay true to what he wrote and understand what might easily have been artistic license, then we have a better chance of solving the mystery. Looking at the details of scientific discovery, we now know that 3 items of evidence all point to a big event occurring 9600 BC. Each of these is from a different scientific discipline. Plato got a lot right about Atlantis without knowing the science we know today.

Certainly copper is the only metal with a reddish hue in its natural form, but if orichalcum were an unknown alloy, we might never know the truth of it.

But what if orichalcum were an alloy of copper and uranium? Being relatively new material from the mantle of Earth, the soil of Atlantis (if it existed) would likely have been rich with minerals, just as Plato said it was. If you look up the properties of copper and uranium, you find that their melting points are almost exactly the same!

And if the Atlanteans did indeed have an advanced technology -- the stuff of myth and legend -- then perhaps the idea that dragon ships had scales that were immensely tough could come from the addition of uranium -- one of the densest and toughest metals known. The fact that changing the ratio of metals can make a copper alloy more gold colored adds credence to this notion that orichalcum was the stuff of dragon scales. The dragons of the Egyptian merchant prince, of Cadmus and of Medea were all gold in color.


aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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