Junior Karl Berg is trav­eling to the Jezreel Valley in Israel for hands-on expe­rience in arche­ology this summer. Karl Berg | Courtesy

Junior Karl Berg, a history major, has shown interest in bib­lical arche­ology for most of his life, working actively on history projects since he was in middle school. For the first time, Berg is trav­eling to the Jezreel Valley in Israel for hands-on expe­rience in the arche­ology and history that has held his passion for so long.

“For me, exploring arche­ology and exploring the past makes the faith come alive in dif­ferent ways than you might expect,” Berg said. “If Chris­tianity is true, then it will be grounded in and backed up by arche­ology.”

In July, with the Tel Shimron Exca­va­tions, Berg will learn from and work alongside arche­ology experts from Ivy-League col­leges, including Harvard Uni­versity and Dart­mouth College. The team of exca­vators will be the first to break ground on Tel Shimron in the Jezreel Valley.

“The most amazing thing is that I’ve always pic­tured all these bib­lical events taking place in certain scenery and none of my expec­ta­tions dif­fered from what I saw,” Berg said. “It looked exactly how I expected it to, fitting in place with the Scripture that always lives out in my mind. It was almost a home­coming.”

Since he was 11 years old, Berg has been working on a Christian apolo­getics project focusing on ancient culture. He said his vision is to peel back the layers of time between the modern world and the first century to encourage people to explore the ancient world with first-century eyes.

“We skim over at 30,000 feet and don’t get the details,” Berg said.

When economy and wealth — common causes for war and con­flict through history — are applied to bib­lical nar­rative, the familiar stories become more believable.

Berg said in the ancient world, the two wealthiest places were Egypt and Mesopotamia. The only way to travel between them without  the brutal deserts destroying the caravan was to follow a trade route that hugs the Mediter­ranean and takes the traveler north and east into Israel through various mountain passes which con­verge into the valley. As a result, the Jezreel Valley was one of the most fought-over and developed places. Having control of this trade and mil­itary center meant con­trolling all the wealth pouring in from Egypt and Mesopotamia. Solomon gained his wealth after he grasped power over the valley. He for­tified the ancient city of Tel Megiddo, and the gates he built on the nearby mound remain to this day.

“Reading through the Bible, we don’t always rec­ognize eco­nomic motives,” Berg said. “When we read about the Philistines attacking, we think they’re just the bad guys. But they were actually trying to control this trade spot. Saul and his sons died in the Jezreel Valley fighting to control the trade route.”

Kenneth Calvert, history pro­fessor and head­master of Hillsdale Academy, said arche­ology cannot be excluded from ancient history.

“This is a great expe­rience for any student to under­stand how arche­ology is done, and to under­stand what truly amazing things are to be found,” Calvert said.  “Inscrip­tions, texts, and pieces of ancient lives are to be found.”  

Berg said his greatest goal is to look into the lives of the ancients as a way of under­standing and expe­ri­encing the Christian faith.

Pro­fessor of Classics Joseph Gar­njobst spent four seasons exca­vating in Athens, Greece, and said standing in the famous loca­tions one reads about makes the history real.

“To be in those places and see how the actual place operated according to our recon­struction gives it a little more life than one gets from the page,” Gar­njobst said.

In June 2016, after his 10 years of research, Berg launched a website: Berg said his antic­i­pated trip to Tel Shimron will add tan­gible expe­rience to his vision, allowing him to show the accuracy of bib­lical nar­rative through the lens of his­torical dis­cov­eries.

“There are a lot of his­torical finds that back up the Scrip­tures,” Berg said. “It’s uncanny, and there’s a lot that brings out the reality.You get the little details that really don’t matter in the large scheme of things, but they just add to the full picture.”