The Brass Nails of the Akko Tower Wreck (Israel): Archaeometallurgical Analyses

M. Cohen, D. Ashkenazi, Y. Kahanov, A. Stern, S. Klein, D. Cvikel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The shipwreck designated as the Akko Tower Wreck was discovered inside Akko harbor, Israel, in 1966. It was surveyed in 1975 and 1981, and excavated in 2012–2013. Hull planks were connected to the frames by brass nails, some of which were in situ, emerging vertically from the planking, where frames had disappeared, and others were detached. The 105 nails that were retrieved were tentatively divided into two groups (A and B) according to their general shape and size. Nails sampled from each group were characterized by non-destructive and destructive metallurgical methods, including XRF, light microscopy, SEM–EDS, microindentation hardness measurements, and lead isotope analysis, in order to reveal their composition and microstructure, as well as to determine their manufacturing process and date the origin of the raw material. All nails were manufactured by casting and made of binary copper-zinc alloy: Type A with 35–36 wt% zinc, and Type B with 33–34 wt% zinc (XRF results). These compositions confirmed the preliminary typing of the nails. Their microstructure indicates that they were manufactured differently: Type A nails have Widmanstätten thin lamellae plates, and Type B nails have α-brass grains containing a dendritic microstructure. Based on their zinc and lead concentrations it is suggested that the nails were manufactured in the first half of the nineteenth century. The lead isotope analyses of the nails suggest that the raw material most probably originated in Great Britain. Hence, it is suggested that the Akko Tower Wreck is the remains of a European merchantman which sank in Akko harbor about the middle of the nineteenth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-206
Number of pages19
JournalMetallography, Microstructure, and Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The underwater excavations (IAA permit G-23/2012 and G-78/2013) and research of the Akko Tower Wreck are supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 447/12), the Honor Frost Foundation, a Sir Maurice Hatter Fellowship, the Rector and Research Authority of the University of Haifa, and anonymous donors, to whom the authors are grateful. The authors would like to thank H. Kravitz, Microtech LTD (Israel), for his technical metallographic assistance; Z. Barkai, Wolfson Applied Materials Research Centre, Tel Aviv University, for her assistance; M. Bram and N. Cvikel for their help with the hammering experiment; J. B. Tresman for the English editing; and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York and ASM International.


  • Akko Tower Wreck
  • Brass nails
  • Casting
  • Lead isotope
  • Metallography
  • Microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Metals and Alloys


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