Author of the week
Sarah Parcak might have the best job ever, said Zoë Corbyn in The Observer (U.K.). Like Indiana Jones, the swashbuckling movie hero who inspired her as a child, Parcak is an archaeologist. Better yet, she’s a “space archaeologist”: She has discovered secrets of ancient Egypt that eluded even the fictional Jones by using satellites and remote-sensing technologies to “see” what lies just below Earth’s surface. As the Maine native and University of Alabama professor details in her new book, Archaeology From Space, she and her team have identified more than a dozen pyramids and thousands of tombs in Egypt. And by processing satellite images so that they display buried brick, she spotted and made mappable a 3,000-year-old city. “You could see clear buildings, streets, suburbs—everything,” she says.
Staring from above at our planet has affected Parcak’s view of life on it, said Ari Shapiro in NPR.org. “I think I have the same perspective of Earth that astronauts have,” she says. “I see how connected we are.” But she also catches glimpses of humanity’s dark side. Her satellite images of Egyptian sites often show evidence of looting—a problem exacerbated by the lawlessness that followed 2011’s Arab Spring uprising. Parcak predicts that by 2040, many of the world’s estimated 50 million unmapped archaeological sites will be destroyed or corrupted—if not by looters then by development or the effects of climate change. That adds urgency to the work. “I feel like I’m adding little footnotes to the history of humanity with every little thing I excavate,” she says. “I try to never take it for granted for a moment.” ■