As no nails were found on the wreck-site, the ship was probably constructed by the ‘shell-first’ method, using mortises and tenons, treenails and sewing, as was common in the period (Casson, 1971: 14–16, 201–14). The anchors may provide some indication of the size of the ship. At the Uluburun shipwreck the total weight of the 24 anchors found was 3297 kg, and the ship was estimated to have been c.15 m long (Pulak, 2011: 15). Judging by the size and combined weight of the stone anchors of the Hishuley Carmel wreck (some 3470 kg), it seems that the assemblage may belong to a medium-sized, 15–18-m-long vessel. The four anchors found separately in area A may have been used as working anchors and were probably kept on the ship's bow for daily use. The concentration of anchors in area C could have been spares, probably stored in the bottom of the ship, to be used as multi-functional ballast. A similar pattern of working anchors kept, ready to use, on the bow, and additional anchors stored amidships, was found in the Uluburun wreck (Pulak, 2011: 15) and in the Neve-Yam Middle Bronze Age wreck (Galili, 1985: 146–50).
An analysis of the compositions of scores of wrecks along the Israeli coast has demonstrated that the products of a shipwreck in the surf-zone were generally separated into three main classes by the action of the sea. People and livestock probably drifted ashore. Light cargoes, as well as wooden parts detached from the hull and objects firmly attached to them, also washed ashore. These were scattered on the coast, east, north or south of the wreck-site, depending on currents and winds. Wooden hulls, if they survived intact after capsizing in the breaker-zone, were usually grounded in shallow water with some of the remaining cargo. Heavy metallic or stone objects falling from the hulls during the wrecking sank into the sediment during the storm or soon thereafter, and accumulated on the substratum under the constantly-shifting sand. Clay amphoras either drifted ashore or rolled on the shallow sea-bed, gradually moving away from the wreck-site. In most cases they would have been well worn by the surf. Only heavy objects, therefore, would have remained at wreck-sites in the surf-zone.
The Carmel coast south of Haifa is sandy, straight and lacking natural shelter. Over the millennia storms along this coast have disabled numerous ships, either while sailing along the coast, or while anchoring offshore. Judging by the artefact distribution on the sea-bottom (Fig. 2), a possible scenario of wrecking, site-formation and post-deposition processes may be proposed for the Hishuley Carmel shipwreck.
The ship was probably exposed to a storm which combined strong onshore winds and high waves. The rigging and square sails used at the time did not function in such harsh conditions; the crew lost control of the stressed ship, and desperate contingency steps may have been taken. The sails were folded and working anchors may have been cast in an effort to keep the prow facing the onshore wind and waves and avoid drifting ashore. At some point, close to the breaker-zone, anchor-cables probably broke and the vessel turned sideways-on to the waves. When reaching the surf-zone the vessel may have capsized or steeply listed, and much of the cargo and the spare anchors fell overboard and rapidly sank, later settling into the sand.
Finally, at a depth of c.1 m, the hull, still carrying the remaining cargo, anchors and ballast-stones, was grounded. The piles of stones found on the eastern side of area C may have originated from the ship's ballast. Apparently both the Uluburun ship and the Hishuley Carmel ship carried permanent ballast weighing more than a ton, in addition to spare stone anchors. The ballast-stones, in the bilge, and the working anchors, probably lashed on the bow, may have retained their position on the sea-bottom in the area were the main hull was grounded. It therefore seems that much of the cargo of the Hishuley Carmel ship was composed of materials that did not remain on site.
The pattern of wreckage along the open, exposed and shallow Israeli coast is totally different from that of wreckage on a steep, rocky, coast as at Uluburun, where the hull and most of the cargo sank rapidly together, in relatively deep water, and were not accessible for salvage in Antiquity. Given that the remains of the Hishuley Carmel vessel and its cargo, grounded in shallow water close to the coast, were relatively accessible, much of the cargo could have been salvaged by the local population or any surviving crew soon after the wrecking.
In the last century, sand-quarrying and the building of marine structures such as breakwaters and quays along the Israeli coast created a shortage of sand. Wide areas of sea-bottom were uncovered, and consequently hundreds of sites, including the one discussed here, were exposed and discovered. Today, when the sand has eroded and the artefacts are exposed, the depth in the place where the hull grounded is c.3 m. The contents are scattered in depths of 3–5 m, which, at the time of the wrecking, would have been more like 2–3.5 m (Galili et al., 1988: 36–42).