VIDEO: Space archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow Sarah Parcak hopes to discover unknown archaeological sites around the world and protect them from looting and encroachment by using satellite imagery taken from 724 kilometers (450 miles) above the Earth. Parcak is making it possible for the public to become a part of the GlobalXplorer° community of citizen science space archaeologists at GlobalXplorer.org
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A little over a hundred years ago, American explorer Hiram Bingham captured the world’s attention when he his account of his Peruvian expedition made the front cover of National Geographic magazine in 1913. Relying on local knowledge, he visited the crumbling ruins of Machu Picchu tucked in the forests of the Andes Mountains. He used state-of-the-art photography equipment to record what was there, and returned with 250 pictures and detailed reports about the expedition. The tradition of explorers using cutting-edge technology in Peru continues today with space archaeologist and National Geographic Fellow, Sarah Parcak, and National Geographic eExplorer Luis Jaime Castillo.
Parcak uses remote sensing to see what would bethings hidden to the human eye. “Space archaeology is the study and the use of satellite images for mapping ancient archaeological features and environmental features by looking at different parts of the light spectrum,” saidsays Parcak. “We see subtle changes on the Earth’s surface caused by what’s buried beneath.” The satellite imagery records frequencies outside the visible spectrum that the human eye can see: near infrared, middle infrared, thermal infrared, and radar. This imagery reveals features such as buried stone walls, geology, and vegetation changes. Enhanced imagery can help identify buried sites that archaeologists can then explore on the ground.
When most people think about archaeology, they probably imagine long days excavating in the dirt looking for bones & artifacts. But a lot has to happen for archaeologists to pinpoint where it will bethe sites that are most valuable to excavate. Using remote sensing has become, Parcak saidsays, much more of a standard first step: “An archeologist typically wouldn’t go into the field, especially if they’re doing a survey project, without having done remote- sensing work prior to that.”
Archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo uses drones to take pictures and convert them into 3-D images for archeological research on the north coast of Peru. Castillo explains that archaeologists have always dreamed of having a bird’s-eye view. Now, drones are affordable & allow researchers to cover a huge areas in a small shorter amounts of time. Castillo said, “The more we can use technologies like drones for instance, or satellites, to actually help us in this process, the better,.” Castillo says.
More and more imagery is being made available every day. Parcak said, “Now there are millions of satellite images of the Earth’s surface taken at different times of year,” Parcak says.. “As those images become more available & new satellites get launched, costs are going to come down. … It’s not just the technology, it’s accessibility. & that’s making so much more possible.”
Parcak is seizing the opportunity by inviting the public to help look through satellite imagery of Peru. “This is a country that has so many diverse ancient cultures,” Parcak said, “ that the scale of what’s there is unimaginable. And that’s what the world is going to help map.”
GlobalXplorer° is a cutting-edge platform that empowers citizen scientists around the world to help reduce looting and encroachment at important archaeological sites—as well as discover and protect unknown sites—using satellite imagery. Find out how you can become part of the GlobalXplorer° community and make a difference, beginning with our first expedition in Peru, at GlobalXplorer.org. http://www.globalxplorer.org
More on space archaeology: http://nationalgeographic.org/projects/space-archaeology/
Closed -captions are available on the video in English and Spanish.
Senior Producer: Sarah Joseph
Producer: Carolyn Barnwell
Editor: Dave Nathan
Director of Photography: Juan Antonio Puyol
Additional Videography: Dave Cooper
Satellite Imagery: DigitalGlobe
Executive Producer: Vanessa Serrao
Space Archaeology: A New Frontier of Exploration | National Geographic