Sarah Parcak

Science, Technology, TED Talk Speaker, Women Speakers

Travels from Alabama, USA

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Sarah Parcak Profile

  • Combining satellite technology with traditional archeological methods, she has discovered more than 1,000 sites including entire cities, lost Egyptian pyramids, and the second Viking settlement to be found in North America.

  • She is the founding director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology.

  • The 2016 TED Prize Winner, she is using her $1 million reward to develop and launch XPlorer, a game-like program that will allow anyone with an Internet connection to use her innovative techniques and take part in uncovering the remnants of lost civilizations.
  • 2016 TED prize winner and space archeologist Sarah Parcak has pioneered the use of satellite imagery to locate and identify over 1,000 hidden archeological sites throughout the world. Some of her discoveries include 17 lost Egyptian pyramids, buried cities, and the second settlement to confirm a Viking presence in North America predating Columbus’s voyages.

    Dr. Parcak is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, and a graduate of Yale University and Cambridge. Her innovative methods and landmark discoveries have been the subject of various documentaries including the BBC’s Rome’s Lost Empire, Egypt’s Lost Cities, CNN’s The Next List, and PBS NOVA’s Vikings Unearthed.

    Dr. Parcak is using her $1 million prize from TED to crowdsource discovery and preservation of the world’s archeological sites. She is creating a science game, XPlorer, that allows anyone with an Internet connection to search for traces of lost civilizations using her techniques.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Space Archaeologist

      Sarah Parcak uses the newest technology in the sky to find some of the oldest things under the sun.

      An Egyptologist and self-styled “space archeologist,” Parcak uses satellite images to spy out likely sites of ancient cities. The technology saves time, she tells BBC Radio: “There are 50 locations I have to check; I can do that in two weeks instead of two years.” And the satellite data, properly processed and analyzed, can yield results that are invisible to the naked eye: “I think it’s the most exciting time in history to be an archeologist.”

      Parcak comes by her desire for a bird’s-eye view naturally: her grandfather, a professor in Maine, “pioneered the use of aerial photography in forestry,” according to her bio. But it was at Yale where, as a senior double majoring in Egyptology and archeology, she “took a class that changed her life”: an introduction to interpreting satellite imagery.

      Parcak is an associate professor at the University of Alabama, where she founded and directs a laboratory for satellite remote sensing. Recently she was a fellow at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), the annual gathering of “the world’s leading thinkers and doers.” Her team has discovered more than 3,100 new sites.

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    Books by Sarah Parcak:

    Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology
    This handbook is the first comprehensive overview of the field of satellite remote sensing for archaeology and how it can be applied to ongoing archaeological fieldwork projects across the globe. It provides a survey of the history and development of the field, connecting satellite remote sensing in archaeology to broader developments in remote sensing, archaeological method and theory, cultural resource management, and environmental studies. With a focus on practical uses of satellite remote sensing, Sarah H. Parcak evaluates satellite imagery types and remote sensing analysis techniques specific to the discovery, preservation, and management of archaeological sites.

    Case studies from Asia, Central America, and the Middle East are explored, including Xi’an, China; Angkor Wat, Cambodia and Egypt’s floodplains. In-field surveying techniques particular to satellite remote sensing are emphasized, providing strategies for recording ancient features on the ground observed from space. The book also discusses broader issues relating to archaeological remote sensing ethics, looting prevention, and archaeological site preservation. New sensing research is included and illustrated with the inclusion of over 160 satellite images of ancient sites.

    With a companion website ( with further resources and colour images, Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology will provide anyone interested in scientific applications to uncovering past archaeological landscapes a foundation for future research and study.

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