Legendary metal from Atlantis found at the bottom of the sea
A recently discovered ancient shipwreck uncovered a reserve of orichalcum, a legendary metal lost since the times of Atlantis.
A recent discovery at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea has uncovered a reserve of a rare metal known as orichalcum. The metal is mostly unremarkable with one significant exception – it was said to only have been mined on Atlantis.
By today’s standard, the metal is nothing special. It is made of 75 to 80-percent copper, 15 to 20-percent zinc, and traces of nickel, lead, and iron. In the ancient world, however, it was considered to be second only to gold and it was frequently used for ornaments. Its value came from its rarity, and given that it was said to only exist naturally in a kingdom that no longer exists, there were few rarer.
Although very little evidence exists that Atlantis actually existed, there are hints that lead many scholars and historians to conclude that it was a real place, and it was destroyed millennia ago, most likely in some cataclysmic disaster. One of the pieces that the kingdom did exist, however, is orichalcum.
Plato claimed in Critias orichalcum was mined only in Atlantis. He went on to state that the great temples, including the Temple of Poseidon, was said to be covered in the metal. Given that Plato also claimed Atlantis was an island, that would make the locals especially respectful of the god of the seas. Orichalcum is described in several ancient texts, but only small, ornamental fragments still exist.
The shipwreck was discovered by a team of divers led by Sebastiano Tusa of Sicily’s Sea Office. Tusa and his team claim they have recovered 39 blocks of the metal, making it potentially the largest find of orichalcum in history.
The wreck is believed to be a sixth-century BCE vessel that was heading to Gela, a port in southern Sicily, when it was caught in a storm and sank around 300 meters from shore. It is believed to have originated in Greece or Asia Minor. Of course, many believe that Atlantis was an island somewhere off the coast of Greece. More still believe that Atlantis was destroyed, possibly by a volcano, which caused it to be covered by the sea. If it existed, the ship may have come from Atlantis, although that is pure supposition.
Tusa and his team are now working to excavate the entire 2,600-year-old shipwreck. Along with the metal, they hope it may tell us more about the era. If we are very lucky, it might even shed some light on Atlantis itself.