Shipbuilding and maritime activity on the eve of mechanization: Dendrochronological analysis of the Akko Tower Shipwreck, Israel

Brita Lorentzen, Sturt W. Manning, Deborah Cvikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 19th century was an era of increasing mechanization and globalization, which transformed maritime networks and shipbuilding in and beyond the Mediterranean. Shipwrecks offer valuable physical evidence of such maritime connectivity and evolving shipbuilding techniques but must be dated within a high-resolution timeframe to be synchronized with, and thereby enhance, historical records. We focus here on high-resolution dating of the Akko Tower Shipwreck, the remains of an Ottoman merchant brig found inside the harbor of Akko, Israel. We use dendrochronology, 14C wiggle-matching, and Bayesian chronological modeling to determine that the ship was likely constructed in the mid-1850s, and therefore called at Akko's harbor after the town's 1840 bombardment, a period of decline traditionally under-studied in Ottoman historical narratives. Using dendroprovenancing methods, we find that the ship's hull used timbers from the Anatolian Black Sea region, although it was built in the French construction tradition, and used British metal rigging and fasteners, which reflect shifting Anglo-French influence and socioeconomic interconnections with the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century. The Akko Tower Shipwreck is the first shipwreck from Israel to be dendrochronologically dated and provenanced. Our results show how dendrochronology and Bayesian chronological modeling can be used successfully not only for high-precision dating, but also for untangling the shipbuilding processes and the socioeconomic networks that made ship construction possible. We also re-evaluate East Mediterranean oak sapwood datasets and develop an approximate new sapwood model that provides more robust estimates of felling dates for tree-ring analysis of this region's oak wooden cultural heritage.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102463
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Akko
  • Dendrochronology
  • Levant
  • Maritime history
  • Ottoman
  • Shipbuilding
  • Wood supply

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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