Culture

Doing archeology from space: Sarah Parcak at TED2012

Posted by: Karen Eng

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Space archeology pioneer and Egyptologist Sarah Parcak zooms out from the moment 90 years ago when Howard Carter peered by candlelight into King Tut’s tomb to a new age of archaeological discovery: seeking ancient civilization by 21st-century candlelight. Sarah uses satellite imagery to find evidence of ancient Egyptian cities. Take the ancient capital of Tanis, for example: When the satellite data was processed with infrared, it revealed streets, houses and even, possibly, palaces, enough information to draw street maps reconstituting an entire city — what Sarah calls “the New York of its time” — four times larger than previously thought and not seen in 3,000 years. But what about the other cities in Egypt’s 5,000-year history? Sarah’s team processed the data and created a new map, which revealed more than 3,100 new sites — which means more than 99 percent of ancient Egypt remains to be uncovered.