Sarah Parcak

(Sarah Helen Parcak)

Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak
  • Born:
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Associate Professor, Archaeologist, Egyptologist, Remote Sensing Archaeologist

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Archaeologists gave the military the idea to use aerial photographs for spying and field survey. We are fortunate that the spatial and spectral resolutions of the imagery available to us are so broadly useful for archaeology.
Archaeologists have used aerial photographs to map archaeological sites since the 1920s, while the use of infrared photography started in the 1960s, and satellite imagery was first used in the 1970s.
Before doing fieldwork in Middle Egypt, I analyzed satellite imagery to determine exactly where I wanted to go. Within three weeks, I found about 70 sites. If I had approached this as a traditional foot survey, it would have taken me three and a half years.
I give my grandfather, Dr Harold Young, a forestry Professor at the University of Maine, full credit for my career path. He pioneered the use of aerial photography in forestry in the 1950s, and we think he worked as a spy for the CIA during the Cold War, mapping Russian installations. War & Peace
I keep being surprised by the amount of archaeological sites and features that are left to find all over the world.
I predict that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of undiscovered ancient sites across the globe. The only way to map them and locate them quickly is from satellites.
I think archaeologists are stuck, and we are losing our past at a very rapid rate. Tens of thousands of sites will be lost, and we've only unveiled a tiny percent of the past.
If you look at the Nile on a map of Egypt, you don't think it has moved very much, but the river is very violent and has moved over time. Time
If you really want to be a good archaeologist, you have to understand ancient DNA; you have to understand chemical analysis to figure out the composition of ancient pots. You have to be able to study human remains. You need to be able to do computer processing and, in some cases, computer programming.
In Egypt, I do survey work on the ground. That's really the most important part of using satellite images. You know, it helps us to find potential locations for sites, and then we get to go there on the ground and confirm what we've seen. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Itjtawy was ancient Egypt's capital for over four hundred years, at a period of time called the Middle Kingdom about four thousand years ago. The site is located in the Faiyum of Egypt, and the site is really important because in the Middle Kingdom there was this great renaissance for ancient Egyptian art, architecture and religion. Time ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
It's absolutely critical, you know, to train young men and women not just to find sites, but also to protect sites, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring. There's been significant site-looting in Egypt and elsewhere across the Middle East. Women
It's both Indiana Jones and 'National Geographic' that inspired me to be an Egyptologist.
Less than 1 percent of ancient Egypt has been discovered and excavated. With population pressures, urbanization, and modernization encroaching, we're in a race against time. Why not use the most advanced tools we have to map, quantify, and protect our past? Time
'Satellite archaeology' refers to the use of NASA and commercial high resolution satellite datasets to map and discover past structures, cities, and geological features.
Scientists use satellites to track weather, map ice sheet melting, detect diseases, show ecosystem change... the list goes on and on. I think nearly every scientific field benefits or could benefit from satellite imagery analysis.
The only technology that can 'see' beneath the ground is radar imagery. But satellite imagery also allows scientists to map short- and long-term changes to the Earth's surface. Buried archaeological remains affect the overlying vegetation, soils and even water in different ways, depending on the landscapes you're examining. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
There are so many previously unknown sites and structures all over the world. And I think most importantly what satellites help to show us is we've actually only found a fraction of a percent of ancient settlements and sites all over the world.
There's even an aircraft sensor system that sends down hundreds of thousands of pulses of light measured at different return rates. It allows you to literally strip away vegetation and see entire cities beneath the rain forest canopy. This is the unbelievable future of archaeology. Future
To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.
We have so many issues with overpopulation and urbanization and site looting. And this isn't just Egypt. This is everywhere in the world, even in America. So we only have a limited amount of time left before many archaeological sites all over the world are destroyed. Time
We're using satellites to help map and model cultural features that could never be seen on the ground because they're obscured by modernization, forests, or soil.
We've found that patterns of site looting have increased between 500 and 1000 percent since the start of the Arab Spring. Now this is a problem as old as human beings. People were looting tombs 5,000 years ago in Egypt as soon as people were buried, but the problem is only getting worse and worse.
We've got to map all of our ancient history before it's gone because, let's face it, if we don't have a common heritage to share, something to get excited about, then what are we living for? History
What satellites help to show us is we've actually only found a fraction of a percent of ancient settlements and sites all over the world... It's the most exciting time in history to be an archaeologist. Time ;History
When a wall is slowly covered over by earth, the materials it's made from decay and become part of the soils around and above it, sometimes causing vegetation above and next to the wall to grow faster or slower. Satellite imagery helps archaeologists to pick up these subtle changes.
When I was a child growing up in Maine, one of my favorite things to do was to look for sand dollars on the seashores of Maine, because my parents told me it would bring me luck. But you know, these shells, they're hard to find. They're covered in sand. They're difficult to see.
When people initially think of the term 'space archaeologist,' they think, 'Oh, it's someone who uses satellites to look for alien settlements on Mars or in outer space,' but the opposite is true - we're actually looking for evidence of past human life on planet earth. Life
When you think about the scale of human populations all over the world and the fact that there's so much here, really, the only way to be able to visualize that is to pull back in space... It allows us to see hidden temples and tombs and pyramids and even entire settlements.
You just pull back for hundreds of miles using the satellite imagery, and all of a sudden this invisible world become visible. You're actually able to see settlements and tombs - and even things like buried pyramids - that you might not otherwise be able to see.

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