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Archaeologists discover mysterious metal linked to lost city of Atlantis

Divers have recovered 39 ingots, which would have been used as decorations, on the sea floor near Sicily. Archaeologists believe they may have belonged to a ship lost in the sixth century.

The ingots are made of orichalcum, a brass-like cast metal the ancient Greeks believed was from the lost city of Atlantis and was used at Poseidon's temple. The metal lumps were found in the shipwreck of a vessel that sunk 2,600 years ago, likely on its way to Sicily from either Greece or Asia Minor.

"Nothing similar has ever been found," Sebastiano Tusa, Sicily's superintendent of the Sea Office, told Discovery News. Previously, researchers only knew orichalcum from ancient texts and ornamental objects. The metal is mentioned in the writings of Plato from the fourth century B.C.E. — he described Atlantis as flashing "with the red light of oricalchum," adding that its value was second only to gold.

Tusa's team plans to excavate the entire cargo from the shipwreck, which he hopes will give archaeologists "precious information on Sicily's most ancient economic history."