Oh goodie! Fantastic(al) news like the sort I have for you today is what I live for. It seems archaeologists last month recovered a wealth of ingots of an unusual golden alloy from the wreck sitting in about 3m of water, 300m off the coast of Gela in southern Sicily. Also recovered from the wreck, which sank some 2600 years ago, were two Corinthian war helmets and containers once used to hold precious, scented oils. But it is the rough lumps of metal still shining with red and gold hues after two millennia on the sea floor that has excited the archaeological world. It could be orichalcum.

I've posted about orichalcum before. It was one of fabled Atlantis' marvels. The metal was called 'aurichalcum' by the Romans and is a metal mentioned in several ancient writings, including the story of Atlantis in the Critias dialogue, recorded by Plato. In it, he says:

"Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum."

The name derives from the Greek ὀρείχαλκος, oreikhalkos (from ὄρος, oros, mountain and χαλκός, chalkos, copper or bronze), meaning literally 'mountain copper' or 'copper mountain'. The mining of orichalcum would have made Atlantis (or Santorini) very wealthy as it seems the metal was only mined there, and orichalcum was considered second only to gold in value.

In January 2015, a team of divers already discovered dozens of pieces of ancient metal from a shipwreck, aged 2,600 years, off the coast of Sicily island, in the south of Italy. The lumps of metal were arriving to Gela in southern Sicily, possibly coming from Greece or Asia Minor. The ship that was carrying them was likely caught in a storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port. They were unlike any metal ever found. Analyzed with X-ray fluorescence, the 39 ingots turned to be an alloy made with 75-80 percent copper, 15-20 percent zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead and iron.

Cleaned of 2600 years worth of muck, the orichalcum still glistens with its original hue. Picture: Sebastiano Tusa, Superintendent of the Sea-Sicily Region

Another load of the metal was found recently in roughly the same area as the 2015 find. The archaeologists working on recovering the wreck say it went down within sight of safety. Sicilian archaeologist Sebastiano Tusa told Seeker:

"The ship dates to the end the sixth century BC. It was likely caught in a sudden storm and sunk just when it was about to enter the port. The presence of helmets and weapons aboard ships is rather common. They were used against pirate incursions."

The dating rules out Atlantis itself as Plato, writing in the 4th Century BC, implies that legendary city slipped beneath the waves many hundreds--perhaps thousands--of years earlier.

Also recovered was an anchor, remains of amphorae and several smaller containers used for carrying precious oils. The shipwreck, and that of another two nearby, are yet to be fully excavated. Tusa told La Repubblica that protecting the wrecks remains a concern, with looters believed to be exploiting a lack of policing of the archaeologically rich waters.