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?

Sarah Parcak

Sarah Parcak

Profession: Archaeologist
Nationality: American

Some suggestions for you :

You can theorize as much as you want about what you think you're seeing, but until you get out there and dig, you can't tell exactly what it is.

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.

We have so many thousands of sites to find across the globe and new techniques to test. The field keeps evolving with the technology, which makes things exciting.

How do you find a buried city in a vast landscape? Finding it randomly would be the equivalent of locating a needle in a haystack, blindfolded, wearing baseball mitts.

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.

A lot of people are surprised when I talk so much about the present, but politics is just a crucial part of archaeology.

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?

Archaeology holds all the keys to understanding who we are and where we come from.

I hope my work contributes to understanding long-term patterns of human behavior and how we survive, thrive, or fail during times of environmental, social, and economic crisis.

The most exciting part of what I do is understanding the scale of what we don't know. There are just countless archaeological sites all over the world, and one of the most important and best ways of finding them is using digital technology.

I can't tell you the number of times I've been walking over an archaeological site. And you can't see anything on the ground, and pull back hundreds of miles in space, and all of a sudden you can see streets and roads and houses and even pyramids.

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.

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.

I try to tell a lot of stories to make my students aware that the world is a very cool place with many problems that need solving, and that they all can help solve them.