Orichalcum is a very unusual metal, which the ancient Greeks claim to be found only in Atlantis, the sunken legendary city. It is basically composed of copper and zinc that result in brass with a very shiny finish that looks very much like gold.
A full load of 39 ingots of orichalcum has been recovered off the south coast of
Sicily from a ship that
sunk in the sixth century BC just before entering the .
It probably came from harbor of Gela Greece
or Asia Minor and it is likely that it was caught in a storm – the main danger
for ships sailing the Mediterranean.
The precious orichalcum was long considered to be a mysterious metal and is known from ancient texts but only few objects have survived. Plato mentioned orichalcum as a legendary metal, second only to gold in value, that was mined in Atlantis and used there to cover not only the inside walls of the Temple of Poseidon, but also its floors and columns. According to another theory, it would be invented by Cadmus, a Greek mythological founder of
Recent analysis have revealed that orichalcum is an alloy that closely resembles brass and was obtained through the reaction of zinc ore, charcoal and copper in a crucible. Examining the 39 ingots, they turned out to contain 75-80 percent of copper, 15-20 percent of zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron. This theory is, however, being refuted by a professor from Rio de Janeiro stating that they are an alloy of copper, zinc and lead, believing that orichalcum has its roots in the Peruvian Andes from a civilization that lived there from 1200 to 200 BC – maybe a little too far away from home to be true?
Well, there is still so much we do not know, from Atlantis to (in this case) the Peruvian Andes. These ingots may simply be added to that list, but the find by itself is quite exciting in any case!