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EUGENIO CAPONETTI

FIRST DISCOVERY OF ORICHALCUM INGOTS FROM THE REMAINS OF A 6TH CENTURY BC SHIPWRECK NEAR GELA (SICILY) SEABED

  • Autori: Caponetti, E.; Armetta, F.; CHILLURA MARTINO, D.; Saladino, M.; Ridolfi, S.; Chirco, G.; Berrettoni, M.; Conti, P.; Bruno, N.; Tusa, S.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2017
  • Contributo:
  • Tipologia: Articolo su rivista (Articolo in rivista)

Abstract

Ingots recently recovered from the seabed near Gela, a major harbour of Sicily, reveal an unexpected side of ancient metallurgy. The ingots were found near remains of a ship and earthenware dated around the end of the VI century BC and probably coming from the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean sea. The ingots were analysed by means of X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy via a portable spectrometer. Results indicate that they are mostly consist of copper and zinc although many of them have a significant amount of lead. This alloy is nowday called brass, but in ancient time it was know as orichalcum, one of the rarest and most precious alloy along with gold and silver. Only small items of orichalcum dating before Christ were found so far. The visual examination corroborate by evaluation of dimensions and weight, are consistent with the dating hypothesis and reveals important information about the casting production. The discovery of more than twenty-two kilos of ingots is extraordinary: a first ray of light upon a forgotten technology, which involved also smelter plants (maybe more than one), a commercial network, and a number of end users, who certainly appreciated the properties of shining orichalcum: ductility, mechanical strength, durability, and value.

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