Space Archaeologist Wants Your Help To Find Ancient Sites

July 27, 2017 -- Sarah Parcak is a space archaeologist. She uses satellite imagery to track looted ancient burial sites and  find pyramids hidden under Egyptian cities. Now, she has bigger plans: to launch a worldwide campaign to make all of us space archaeologists.

She will be doing it through  a digital platform called Global Xplorer, which will utilize crowdsourcing and satellite images to discover and protect unknown archaeological sites around the world. Parcak is the  2016 TED Prize winner — and she plans to launch the platform with the $1 million award that comes with the prize.

Parcak explains to NPR's Ari Shapiro how she plans to "game-ify" archaeological research and how she is enlisting everyone's help to pull it off.

"This is going to be a super high tech version of Google Earth," she says. "My team and I are going to process lots of satellite imagery and they'll be put on this platform."

Users will be given a small card from a deck that shows real, processed satellite imagery of a plot of land not more than 20 by 20 or 30 by 30 meters in size. There will be clues and keys by the side of the picture to help them identify whether they're seeing a known site, like a pyramid, or a new site.

 

A satellite image of the archaeological site of Tanis, after processing. Sarah Parcak used satellite data to find the ancient Egyptian city.

Courtesy of Sarah Parcak


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