“This is Tanis from Indiana Jones, from Raiders of the Lost Ark?” asks Stephen Colbert, holding up a pair of photos, one that shows a barren patch of desert, and another that shows an intricate system of buildings and streets buried underneath it. “This is the city of Tanis that they find with the medallion burned into the guy’s hand, the thing that was buried by a sandstorm that lasted almost a year, wiped off the face of the planet by a vengeful god? You found Tanis?”
On Friday night’s episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the first guest of the night was Matthew Broderick. But Colbert seemed more star-struck interviewing satellite archaeologist Sarah Parcak, winner of the 2016 TED Prize. Colbert asked her how exactly she locates lost ancient sites like Tanis (answer: by analyzing satellite imagery of the Earth’s surface and looking for subtle changes in vegetation health) and what needs to happen once a site is spotted (answer: excavation on the ground).
And Colbert of course wanted to know what Parcak plans to do with the $1 million TED Prize.
“We’re at a tipping point right now with archaeology. Every day, we’re seeing headlines about what ISIL is doing in the Middle East,” said Parcak. “If we don’t do something now to help preserve and protect archaeological sites, they’re going to be gone for the next generation. That’s what I want to do, ultimately: figure out a way to get the world engaged with discovery and protecting these ancient sites.”
Parcak is launching a large-scale project to this end, which she will reveal on February 16, during TED2016. Sign up for updates »