Space Archeologist Unlocks Secrets of Ancient Civilizations

Margherita Olivo
November 14th 2015

Sarah Parcak is a pioneering "satellite archaeologist" from University of Alabama, a sort of Indiana Jones with 21st century tech. She has been awarded the 2016 TED Prize for her work applying infrared imagery from satellites to help locate ancient sites lost in time. Her revolutionary methods helped her discover ancient cities and astonishing sites around the world, but especially in Egypt, where she came across 17 unknown pyramids, more than 1000 tombs and 3100 settlements.

This was the result of her satellite mapping of North-Africa, but she won't stop at this, her future work will include Middle-East, which is under the spot in the last months.

The TED annual prize is given to a person whose project warrants funding for a large-scale, high-impact project. Her work has resulted to be very useful and effective against looting of ancient sites. According to the New York Times, this is a serious problem, mostly in Egypt where, only last week, the government prevented a plan to smuggle 1124 sacked antiquities. The preservation of ancient monuments is a hot topic nowadays, especially after ISIS's destruction of major sites in Syria and Iraq.


Stolen antiquities have always been profitable goods, but these activities now seem to be connected to organized crime. "Is it funding terrorism?" Sarah Parcak said in a statement. "The answer is yes, but we don't know the scale. [...] The last four and half years have been horrific for archaeology. I've spent a lot of time, as have many of my colleagues, looking at the destruction, this Prize is not about me. It's about our field. It's about the thousands of men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who are defending and protecting sites." 

Here you can see her TED talk from 2012, where she displays her methods and some of her results.

Source: The New York Times. Image: University of Alabama at Birmingham

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