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Karl Berg spent his summer digging for arti­facts in Tel Shimron, near the ancient city of Jericho in Israel. Courtesy | Karl Berg

While some stu­dents spent their summer working and relaxing by the pool with friends, Karl Berg dug up history under the hot Israeli sun and expe­ri­enced a culture very dif­ferent from his own.

Berg, a senior from Bow Mar, Col­orado, lived in Israel throughout much of June and July. He both dug and recorded findings from Tel Shimron, a site in Northern Israel near the town of Nazareth. Back on campus, Berg gave a lecture on Sept. 21 detailing his dig, showing pic­tures of sites he visited, and giving a general history of the region to which he traveled.  

Berg’s dig in Tel Shimron offered him fresh insights into the Middle Bronze Age.  Although Berg cannot dis­close many of the arti­facts he found — since the dig has not been pub­lished yet — he said he was excited about the prospect of some of his finds ending up in museums.

“It was kind of cool thinking, ‘You know, some of the stuff we find here might end up in this museum, and one day, in 10 or 20 years, come by and say, ‘Hey, I pulled that out of the ground,” Berg said.

During his lecture, Berg showed lis­teners the dif­ferent types of rocks and dirt they dealt with, how they would stake out a dig, and how they would identify certain objects. He demon­strated the process — from digging with a pickaxe, to sifting the dirt, to pol­ishing off the arti­facts.

Berg said that there were, of course, com­pli­ca­tions while working with the team. Most of the exca­vators — including Berg — were vol­un­teers with little expe­rience prior to the dig, some of whom needed training or were overzealous.

“It gets stressful working with a lot of vol­un­teers,” Berg said. “Some seem to take to it faster, and you have dif­ferent per­son­ality types. You have some people that are really careful and detail ori­ented, some­times they don’t do it very quickly when you’d like to go faster. But then there are people who just take a pickaxe and start picking at stuff without any direction. And so it’s a tug of war between these two per­son­ality types.”

Berg said the dig went well and he was able to locate and uncover numerous arti­facts.

Senior Elsa Lagerquist, a friend of Berg’s who attended the lecture, said she appre­ciated the way Berg related bib­lical knowledge and truth back to real, tan­gible places and objects.  

“It was one of those sit­u­a­tions where you get to watch someone talk about some­thing that they love very much,” Lagerquist said, “and there is some­thing so natural and enjoyable about that which makes you want to care about it as well.”

Inter­ested in bib­lical history and apolo­getics from a very young age, Berg had long dreamed of doing an arche­o­logical dig. When he was 11, Berg began writing articles and devo­tionals devoted to apolo­getics. By his senior year of high school, Berg had com­piled enough articles about the Bible, history, and Chris­tianity to publish a book. Rather than pursue tra­di­tional pub­li­cation, however, Berg decided to self-publish his articles on a website he created called “fightfinishkeep.org,” which went online June of 2016.

“The goal of the website is to peel back the layers between us and the first century and help us expe­rience Chris­tianity more by getting into the word of God and bol­stering it with arche­ology,” Berg said. “It’s an apolo­getics website that explores reasons to believe, and why I truly believe that Chris­tianity is the truth.”

Berg’s dig involved careful extraction of arti­facts from Tel Shimron, a site that may help arche­ol­o­gists develop a clearer chrono­logical under­standing of the Southern Levant — for­merly, the land of Canaan, com­prising the modern coun­tries of Israel and parts of Syria and Lebanon. Berg explained that nearly every site throughout Canaan had been destroyed during the end of the Middle Bronze Age. Cur­rently, pottery readings linking the Southern Levant to Egypt and spo­radic samples of carbon dating don’t provide a com­plete chronology to con­tex­tu­alize these destruc­tions.

A clear chronology, however, would clarify both his­torical and reli­gious events such as the Israelites’ entry into Canaan, he said. For that reason, digging in Tel Shimron is exciting because it’s men­tioned as one of the cities con­quered by the Israelites in the book of Joshua, he said.

According to Berg, the standard model for the region’s chronology is a forced fit: It struggles to explain pottery readings and remains highly debated among archae­ol­o­gists.  

Pottery readings and carbon datings could shift that chronology — but the direction of that shift remains highly con­tentious, and more work needs to be done, Berg said.

Under­standing the chronology of the region is not just important to archae­ol­o­gists, but also to Chris­tians and Jews inter­ested in under­standing when the Israelites entered the region and bib­lical history began.

Berg’s girl­friend, senior Kylie Diehl, said though Berg was in a some­times dan­gerous and dif­ferent culture, she was not worried, always trusting that he was under the Lord’s care.

While not an arche­ol­ogist herself, Diehl said it’s exciting to see Berg pursue some­thing he is pas­sionate about and good at. It also enriches their con­ver­sa­tions: “His knowledge of his­torical context con­tributes to fruitful con­ver­sa­tions about scripture, which is a favorite topic for both of us,” she said.  

Berg plans to con­tinue pur­suing arche­ology in graduate study after getting a master’s in bib­lical exe­gesis, achieving reading fluency in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, while con­tributing to his his­torical under­standing of the Bible.

“I’m inter­ested in bib­lical arche­ology because (arche­ology) is arguably the most tan­gible of sci­ences.” Berg said. “It’s history and it’s science, and it brings these two together in this study that you can see and feel with your hands, you can dig in it and really inves­tigate for yourself whether some­thing is what you’ve been told.”

To Diehl, it sounds like Berg’s findings belong in a museum.

“It’s basi­cally like dating Indiana Jones.”