Orichalcum among finds from ancient shipwreck

Underwater archaeologists have recovered 47 lumps of orichalcum – an alloy primarily consisting of copper, zinc and small percentages of nickel, lead, iron. The cargo was recovered off the coast of Gela in southern Sicily.

Ingots of orichalcum from the ship (by Sicilian Superintendency of the Sea)

Together with the ingots a jar and two Corinthian helmets were recovered. The newly found ingots come in addition to the 39 orichalcum lumps that were originally recovered in 2015 from the shipwreck, when it was discovered. According to archaeologists the ship dates to the end the sixth century BC and sunk likely caught in a sudden storm when it was about to enter the port. Never before discovered in any great quantities, orichalcum has long been considered a mysterious metal, with its composition and origin widely debated. X-ray fluorescence  indicated that the recovered ingots are an alloy made with 75 to 80 percent copper, 15 to 20 percent zinc, and small percentages of nickel, lead, and iron. he ship that carried them was travelling from Greece or Asia Minor to Gela, a wealthy city with an abundance of artisan workshops that specialized in the production of prized artefacts.

(after Seeker & Superintendency of the Sea)

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