From the website:
Although alchemy is better known as a phenomenon of the Middle Ages and early modern period, its origins actually lie in late antiquity. In the Hellenized Egypt of the third century AD, ancient Egyptian craft knowledge and traditions encountered Greek natural philosophy. This union resulted in the emergence of alchemy, a subject balanced between theory and practice, between material production and speculation about the hidden ways of nature.
Many of the features that would continue to characterize alchemy for the next fifteen hundred years developed in this earliest stage of the "Noble Art:" secrecy, allegory, and the goal of finding a substance or process capable of turning base metals into gold and silver. The founding figure Zosimos (about 300 AD) left behind extensive writings of which only fragments survive, yet these tantalizing bits reveal glimpses of a keen experimentalist and theorist, one who combined Aristotelian, Platonic, Gnostic, and other intellectual elements with practical work and productive endeavors.
Science historian Lawrence M. Principe of Johns Hopkins University explores these scanty fragments of text that survive, along with a few objects, that reveal a surprisingly vigorous beginning to alchemy in the waning years of the classical world.