There are two types of ‘space archaeology’. There’s the type that documents space history – from our own fledgling efforts to travel beyond Earth, to searching for remnants of extraterrestrial civilisations – and then there is archaeology on Earth, done from space. The short TED talk above, in which Sarah Parcak outlines how her team used satellite data to find a lost Egyptian city, is on the latter.
Due to its length, the talk is very short on the details of her work, but Parcak’s involvement at TED was for a very interesting reason: she was awarded the 2016 TED prize of a million dollars to further her great wish:
I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe. By building an online citizen science platform and training a 21st century army of global explorers, we’ll find and protect the world’s hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind’s collective resilience and creativity.
Parcak will use the funds to launch Global Xplorer, a ‘crowd-sourcing’ science platform, in 2017. Global Xplorer will enable anyone with a web connection “to discover the next hidden tomb or potential looting pit using satellite technology”.
You can sign up for updates – and ultimately to become involved as a ‘citizen scientist’ at the Global Xplorer website. We’ve seen many stories in recent times about using satellite data to uncover lost ancient structures and cities (see the ‘Related stories’ links at the bottom of this post), so perhaps a truly paradigm-shifting discovery could be made in the near future by an ‘arm-chair archaeologist’ using just their computer.
Given the lack of information in the TED talk, to learn more about Sarah Parcak’s work you can read read this Wired article from earlier in the year, or alternatively watch the embedded hour-long documentary below on Parcak and the emerging field of space archaeology.