In November 2013, a salvage excavation was conducted at the site of Sha‘ar Ephraim, along a section of the Eastern Railway (Permit No. A-6936; map ref. 20090–95/68877–81), prior to its renovation. The excavation, undertaken on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and financed by the Cross-Israel Highway Company, Ltd., was directed by P. Spivak, with the assistance of Y. Amrani (administration), A. Peretz (field photography) and C. Ben-Ari (GPS).
Flint Items. Poorly-preserved flint items were collected from the surface. They had been swept there from nearby prehistoric sites, most probably in the mountain region and slopes east of the excavation area, in streams, floods and other naturally occurring processes. The flint assemblage is not homogenous and comprises items from the end of the Upper Paleolithic period (particularly the Natufian period) and the Pottery Neolithic period, as well as from the Middle Paleolithic period. No characteristic tools indicative of human activity that could be attributed to one of the nearby sites were identified.
Ottoman Railroad Track. Remains of a stone bedding on which the Ottoman railroad tracks were laid were exposed at a depth of 0.4–0.9 m below the surface. The bedding was made of chalk and flint pebbles from the streams in the region. Some of the pebbles were whole; others were broken into coarse, angular pieces. A variety of metal items that were used on the railroad track (Fig. 2) were found among the stones. Particularly noteworthy are large pins that were used to connect the track to the railroad sleepers; similarly fashioned items are still in use today.
The Eastern Railway that crossed the length of the Shephelah was built at the end of the Ottoman period (1915–1916). Ottoman army units, charged with running the trains at that time, laid the track as a continuation of the Samaria Railway as a logistical route in transporting forces during the Sinai and Palestine campaigns of the First World War. The excavated section belongs to the railway line that connected H
aifa with Nablus and passed through Tulkarm (Map of the railway lines from the Ottoman Period
). This longitudinal track linked two lateral tracks: the Jezreel Valley Railway and the Lod–Jerusalem line, which ran through Nah
The railway line continued to be used during the time of the British Mandate; it was extended as far as Haifa and became the main trunk line in the rail network in Israel. Following the proclamation of the State of Israel, the line was turned over to the Israel Railways, which continued to operate part of the trunk line until the coastal track was constructed and replaced it. After the track was shut down in the late 1960s, the main section of the track was dismantled and only two segments of the route survived: between Haifa and Hadera and from Highway 531 to the east of Elishema‘ and the Rosh Ha-‘Ayin North railroad station.
Khalaily H. and Milevski I. 2006. Sha‘ar Ephraim Region, Survey. HA-ESI 118
Oren R., Scheftelowitz N. and Barkai R. 1999. Sha‘ar Ephraim (Center and South). ESI 19:32*–33*.