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Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily


47 ingots of orichalcum, two Corinthian helmets, archaic amphorae and a Massaliote round-bottom flask (ie., from the ancient Greek colony of Marseilles in France), have been recovered off the coast of Bulala, near the ancient Greek colony of Gela, in southern Sicily.

Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily

The finds are dated to between the end of the seventh century and the beginning of the sixth century BC.

Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily

Orichalcum (Greek ὀρείχαλκος  from ὅρος, 'mountain' and χαλκός, 'copper') was a precious metal, considered second only to gold in value, whose fame is also linked to the legendary lost continent of Atlantis, described by the Greek philosopher Plato in his dialogue Critias.

Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily

Another 39 orichalcum ingots were recovered at a depth of about five metres in the same area in December 2014.

Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily

The ingots vary in shape, weight and length: from a minimum of 17 cm and a weight of 254 gr to a maximum of 32 cm and a weight of 1340 gr.

Ingots of orichalcum, Corinthian helmets and amphorae found off the coast of Sicily

An analysis performed by Dario Panetta of TQ (Technology for Quality) with the x-ray fluorescence method revealed the ingots were made from a copper (80%) and zinc (20%) based alloy with small traces of lead and nickel.


The presence of wooden planking on the seabed near the bullion suggests these were part of the cargo carried by a ship arriving in Gela which was shipwrecked only a few metres from the coast.

Their discovery demonstrates the wealth of Gela in antiquity and the presence of rich and specialized craft workshops for the production of objects of great value.

Source: Corriere del Mezzogiorno [February 10, 2017]
TANN

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