Dr. Sarah H. Parcak, American archeologist and Egyptologist, was recently awarded the 2016 Ted Prize for her pioneering work in “space archeology,” a concept involving the use of satellite imaging, taken from over 400 miles above Earth, to uncover ancient sites which have gone undiscovered for millennia. An important function of space archeology is to expose and monitor looting of historic locations. Part of the coveted prize, awarded to a winner for an innovative idea with global impact, includes $1 million, and Parcak has big plans for that money. You can watch her Ted Talk here.
Dr. Parcak, 37, has already had a very distinguished career. Not only is she a renowned archeologist, but she’s also a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she founded the “Laboratory for Global Observation.” Dr. Parcak has said she is looking to “build an online interactive citizen science platform” in an effort to crowd-source information from across the globe. One of the challenges of using satellites as an archeological tool, as well as a tool for monitoring and preventing looting, is that there are simply not enough space archeologists to handle the multitude of images. Despite space archeology being first used in the early 1980’s, it is still a relatively rare occupation. As Dr. Parcak recently told NPR, the problem is good, old fashioned, eye strain. She would like to see the world come together to solve this problem, and with her prize money, she can make a real dent in seeing that dream become a reality.
The platform, called Global Xplorer, is set to launch this coming Summer. Dr. Parcak’s plan is to provide participants with two images, an unprocessed image and a processed image. She wants participants to compare the images, which can sometimes be very grainy and hard to interpret.
The goal is to use crowd-sourcing to cover more territory and thus protect a larger number of sites. The current plan is to share these findings with the world via social media. Everyone is invited to participate. All you will have to do is log in, take a basic tutorial, and lend your eyes to the cause. Sound interesting? You can sign up here.