Room 1 was the terminal’s southeastern lobby. For safety reasons, only a small trial excavation (1.0 × 1.5 m) was conducted in its northwestern corner. The top of one of the basement walls (W6), aligned along a north–south axis and built of stones with drafted margins was exposed. At the southern end of the wall was a doorjamb; some of the stones in the doorjamb had drafted margins. The doorway led westward, indicating that the basement extended to the west.
Room 2 was the terminal’s northern lobby. An excavation square was opened in the center of the room. Four layers of loess and clay soil fill (1.6 m total depth) were exposed.
Room 3 is an interior room in the terminal. For safety reasons, the excavation was performed in the northeastern part of the room. The northern and eastern walls of the basement were uncovered down to the base of the foundations (W7, W8). They were built of stones with drafted margins. Below the wall (W4) separating Room 1 from Room 3, was a wide opening (2.1 m) that connected the basement rooms. The floor of the basement (L116) was made of tamped loess. The basement level was filled with soil debris and construction refuse dating to the Ottoman period (see Fig. 1: Section 2–2). Numerous glass and porcelain vessels dating to the time of the British Mandate were discovered at the bottom of the fill inside the basement. The glassware consists of unused display vessels representing a variety of types, forms and colors (Fig. 2), as well as vessels that are crystal imitations (Fig. 3). The porcelain items include numerous models of serving ware, including cups, saucers, plates and pouring vessels (Fig. 4). Three common types were discerned. The first comprises cream-colored vessels decorated with a gold-colored floral pattern. Their rims are adorned with a green stripe flanked by gold-colored stripes (Fig. 5:1). A manufacturer’s mark (Victorian) above a crown and the word “Bros.” (Fig. 5:2) appear on the base of one of these plates. The second consists of white vessels decorated with colorful flowers and a gold stripe on the edge of the vessel (Fig. 6:1, 2). On a fragment of a base of one of these cups was a manufacturer’s mark consisting of five lines (Fig. 7) and below it, in hand writing, the number 4840 and the letter E. The third type is of white colored vessels, decorated with orange and gray or brown and gray lines, with a gold-colored strip on the rim (Fig. 6:3, 4). A manufacturer’s mark consisting of three lines was discerned on the base of one of these plates (Fig. 8).
Room 4. An excavation square was opened in the center of the room, and a thin burnt layer was exposed (L102); below it were five layers of loess and clay (depth 2 m). Fragments of Ottoman-period roof tiles which date the first construction phase of the terminal were discovered in the soil layers. Four types of tiles were discerned (Fig. 9), all of which were stamped with a seal in Latin letters. An exception is one roof tile that bore an inscription in relief (Fig. 9:1); it was produced in a factory in Padua, Italy. Roof tiles with an inscription in relief dating to the time of the First World War were documented in a cistern at Nessana (Urman 2004:19).
The courtyard was bordered on the north and south by two walls (W1, W5) that were visible on the surface prior to the excavation. Two excavation squares were opened along W5 and another one along W1. Both walls were built of an outer face of stones with drafted margins and an inner face of fieldstones. They were preserved to a height of nine courses; the two upper courses (width 0.5 m) were narrower than those below them (width 0.6 m). The northern face of W1 and another wall (W2), with which it formed a corner, were exposed in the southeastern square. Wall 2, which delimited an open work area, was a short wall and was built in a similar fashion as Walls 1 and 5. Two floors were exposed in this square as well. The upper floor barely survived, and only a strip of plaster or chalk on the inner faces of Walls 1 and 2 remained; the continuation of this floor was found in the southwestern square (L118). The lower floor (L109) was tamped earth that was covered by a thin layer of compacted chalk; its elevation corresponded with that of the foundation of W2. Another tamped chalk floor (L117) was revealed in the northern square. Several fragments of Gaza ware were discovered in the excavation of the courtyard.
Another excavation square was opened in the corner between Rooms 3 and 4, in a place where stairs leading to the courtyard were located in the later phases of the terminal; they were recently removed as part of the conservation work on the building. The top of a wall (W3; width 0.9 m), running parallel to the southern wall of Room 4, was discerned on the surface prior to the excavation. The eastern part of W3 served as a foundation for W1. The foundations of the terminal’s walls (L107) were uncovered in the excavation square, and it was ascertained there were no steps there that led to the basement, as was previously assumed.
The excavation revealed one of the early construction phases of the Turkish railway station in Be’er Sheva‘. The plan of the station is almost identical to the plans of stations in Saudi Arabia (Plan F/8/9 of the Ottoman railway station in the Engineering Collection of the Mandatory Railway, Israel Railways Archive) and in Wadi Surar (Nahal Soreq). A comparison with the plan of the Saudi Arabia station suggests that Room 4 was used to store goods, and the courtyard was probably used for loading and unloading goods. During the years 1917–1927, the station was run by the British Mandate government, and Room 4 was converted to a waiting room and teahouse. When the city was conquered by the IDF in the War of Independence, the building’s tile roof and the basement’s ceiling collapsed, and the basement was filled with the ruins of the building with the vessels that were in it. The basement exposed in this excavation is unique to the Be’er Sheva‘ railway station, and does not appear in other stations of the Turkish railway.