'Space Archaeologist' Wants Your Help

'TED' winner Sarah Parcak plans to ID, protect sites via satellite images
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2016 1:05 PM CST
A screen shot of Sarah Parcak giving a TED talk.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – The winner of this year's $1 million TED Prize has the unique title of "space archaeologist," and she plans to use the money to recruit a network of digital helpers to identify and protect sites around the world, reports the BBC. As National Geographic explains, Dr. Sarah Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a pioneer in the field of using satellite technology to pinpoint previously undiscovered archaeological sites. With the prize money, Parcak plans to develop a website that will use volunteer crowdsourcing to amplify that effort and to spot looting. She says the latter is more vital than ever now that groups such as the Islamic State are bent on destroying antiquities.

"We can't keep up," she says. "We are losing the battle. It is heartbreaking." Parcak's plan is to turn the process into something like a game for users, explains NPR. They'll get cards with images representing about 50 square meters of land. "As the crowd populates these images with their tags, after 10, 20, or 50 users tell us that something is there, we'll know to be able to check, to confirm, one way or another," she says. On-the-ground archaeologists would then investigate, sharing their progress on social media. "The coolest part—they’ll be taking you with them," Parcak tells the New York Times. The program is expected to launch this summer. (Read more archaeology stories.)

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