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Mythical Metal of Atlantis May Have Been Found

Plato’s dialogue Critias contains the story of Atlantis and describes the Temple of Poseidon as having an interior covered in a red metal called orichalcum and a pillar also made of orichalcum on which the laws of Poseidon were inscribed. That mysterious metal, whose value was said to second only to gold, sank along with Atlantis and was never seen again. Recently, a team of marine archeologists recovered 39 ingots from a 2600-year-old shipwreck off the coast of Sicily that they believe to be orichalcum.

The ancient Greeks thought orichalcum was invented by Cadmus, the mythical founder and first king of Thebes. The Antiquities of the Jews – Book VIII says the vessels in the Temple of Solomon were made of orichalcum. Historians think it was a brass-like alloy made with zinc ore, charcoal and copper metal in a cremation process. Today it’s popular in video games and novels as a metal for making weapons and armor. So, do we finally have some of the real thing?

A view of the shipwreck where the ingots were discovered

A view of the shipwreck where the ingots were discovered

According to Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily’s superintendent of the Sea Office and part of the recovery team, the shipwreck was found about 1,000 feet from Gela, Sicily, at a depth of only 10 feet. The 39 ingots were analyzed with X-ray fluorescence by Dario Panetta, of TQ – Tecnologies for Quality, and determined to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 15-20 percent zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron. The wreck dates to around 600 B.C. when Gela was a center for arts and would have had workshops waiting for a shipment of orichalcum to turn into artifacts.

Are the ingots made of orichalcum and proof of the existence of Atlantis? Tusa is holding off judgment while he and his team bring up the rest of the metal. Skeptic Enrico Mattievich, an author and former physics professor from Rio de Janeiro, says the ingots are made of brass or laton while true orichalcum is composed of copper, gold and silver and was first created in Peru.

While orichalcum may have been found, the search for Atlantis goes on.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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