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.
He noted that the 39 ingots found on the sandy sea floor represent a unique finding.
“Nothing similar has ever been found,” Tusa said. “We knew orichalcum from ancient texts and a few ornamental objects.”
Indeed orichalcum has long been considered a mysterious metal, its composition and origin widely debated.
According to the ancient Greeks, it was invented by Cadmus, a Greek-Phoenician mythological character. The fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Plato made orichalcum a legendary metal when he mentioned it in the Critias dialogue.
Describing Atlantis as flashing “with the red light of orichalcum,” he wrote that the metal, second only in value to gold, was mined in the mythical island and was used to cover Poseidon’s temple interior walls, columns and floors.