Space-based approach to archaeology focus of talk by Yale alumna Sarah Parcak

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Sarah Parcak says satellite remote sensing could uncover millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe.

“Like a modern-day Indiana Jones, Sarah Parcak uses satellite images to locate lost ancient sites,” according to TED, where she first gave a talk in 2012, introducing the field of “space archaeology.”

Parcak, a 2001 graduate of Yale College, will return to Yale to discuss “The Future of Archaeology: Space-based Approaches to Ancient Landscapes” at a lecture on Wednesday, April 6, at 5 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. The event is sponsored by the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Timothy Dwight College.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It is the first in a series of public events on the preservation of cultural heritage to be held in conjunction with the eighth U.N. Global Colloquium of University Presidents.

Parcak is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and founding director of the UAB Laboratory for Global Observation. The winner of the 2016 TED Prize, she uses satellite imagery combined with ground-based excavation and survey to uncover new tombs, settlements, forts, and potential pyramids in various world regions. Her research represents the first large-scale landscape archaeology approaches to the field of Egyptology.

“I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites across the globe,” Parcak said in outlining her plans for using the $1 million TED Prize. “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 has been a leader in sharing discoveries with the public. Her work has been the focus of two BBC-Discovery Channel specials on the use of satellite remote sensing: Archaeology: Egypt’s Lost Cities (2011) and Rome: What Lies Beneath (2012). She has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and presented at conferences and symposia across the globe. Parcak is a National Geographic Society Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow, and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Her lecture will describe how archaeology has evolved from a primarily ground-based endeavor to one using a wide range of space and airborne remote-sensing tools and what this means for the future of the field. Parcak will share new results from the field, as well as how these technologies can assist in the mapping of ongoing looting in the Middle East.

Parcak — who was a member of Timothy Dwight College (TD) and was a master’s aide there — will be the guest at a master’s tea at TD on Thursday, April 7, at 4:30 p.m. at the home of the current TD master, Mary Lui, 63 Wall St. At the tea, Parcak will discuss “All the hats we cannot see: planning for a non-conventional career in public science.” She will talk with students about the importance for scholars to be able to communicate with the public and discuss her own public outreach through channels and platforms such as the BBC and TED. The tea is also free and open to the public.

Readers are encouraged to join the conversation on social media about the preservation of cultural heritage by using the hashtag #unite4heritage and to watch YaleNews for more stories on the colloquium, related public events, and the ways in which Yale faculty, students, staff, alumni, museums, libraries, schools, and departments are involved.

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