Modern 'Indiana Jones' on a mission to save antiquities

A technology-wielding archeologist billed as a real-world "Indiana Jones" called Tuesday for an online platform that entices just about anyone to help find undiscovered treasures and defend archeological wonders.

See Full Article

Sarah Parcak envisions a 21st century army of citizen scientists to battle the looting and destruction of the world's antiquities. And now, thanks to winning this year's coveted TED Prize, her wish may just come true.

"We are at a tipping point with our cultural heritage," Parcak told reporters. "We are losing the battle against looters. If we don't do something in the next couple of years, it will be gone."

The TED Prize provides a million dollars to kickstart a big vision and opens a door to call on the nonprofit organization's innovative, influential and ingenious community of "tedsters" for help.

Parcak wants people around the world to become explorers, detecting antiquities looting faster than currently possible and pointing archeologists to promising spots on the planet.

"The only way we are going to be able to get ahead of the looters and protect sites is to engage the world and make them part of what we do as archeologists," Parcak said.

Her exploration includes a game with digital "cards" that people can quickly flip through to scrutinize satellite imagery for tombs, pyramids, looting "pits" and other points of potential interest to archeologists.

Only tiny sections of imagery will be shown, along with broad location data such as what country is involved.

"The last thing we want is for looters to log-in and help find sites to loot," Parcak said.

"The most exciting part is, it will be a game."

Parcak condemned destruction of antiquities by the likes of violent extremists from the Islamic State group and saw looting done by the desperately poor as "heartbreaking."

Archeologists will follow up on sites pinpointed by the "crowd," paving the way for protection from governments or law enforcement agencies. Virtual explorers will visit digs using social media tools such as Periscope, Instagram and Google+.

"The world is going to get to engage with archeology in a way that has not been done before at this scale," Parcak said.

Her team is consulting with citizen scientists and game experts on the project.

"We don't know what getting people excited about discovery will do," Parcak said.

"We know this will allow the world to become archeological activists as well as discoverers."

Enlisting people in countries around the world is vital in the fight against intentional destruction of antiquities and looting that is "spiraling out of control," she maintained.

"We can't stop the looting, and we can't change the mindset of people like ISIL, but we can become advocates to stem the antiquities trade," Parcak said.

She hopes to roll the platform out this year.

"Sarah is the ultimate 21st century explorer," said TED Prize director Anna Verghese.

"We find ourselves at a critical moment in time when we can empower and ignite an army of citizen scientists to find, share and protect our heritage."

Parcak was introduced to aerial photography through her grandfather's use of it in forestry work. She was studying Egyptology at Yale when she began exploring the potential for using more modern tools to apply her grandfather's approach to archeology.

Parcak was pursuing an advanced degree at Cambridge University when she created a technique for processing infrared imagery from satellites that helped her detect undiscovered archeological sites in Egypt.

She has since turned to mapping looting. Her work has caused some to refer to Parcak as a real-world version of the Indiana Jones character made famous in films starring Harrison Ford.

Parcak is a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she founded the Laboratory for Global Observation. She has won attention for her work satellite mapping Egypt and uncovering hidden pyramids, tombs and settlements.

The annual TED Prize has grown from $100,000 to a million dollars since it was first awarded in the year 2005, to U2 band leader Bono and his vision of fighting poverty and disease.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Experts release new details about 300-year-old shipwreck discovered near Colombia

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BOSTON - A Spanish galleon laden with gold that sank to the bottom of the Caribbean off the coast of Colombia more than 300 years ago was found three years ago with the help of an underwater autonomous vehicle operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the agency disclosed for the first time. Source
  • China's lunar mission dubbed potentially historic by experts

    Tech & Science CTV News
    BEIJING - Experts say China's ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges but if successful, would put its space program in the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration. Source
  • Montreal researchers use willows to decontaminate polluted soil, groundwater

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MONTREAL -- In an east-end Montreal neighbourhood, a polluted piece of former industrial land has become a garden. Willows sway in the breeze, creating a pleasant green space as the plants slowly reverse decades of industrial activity that has left the chemical-soaked soil of the Pointe-aux-Trembles site too contaminated to use. Source
  • Experts concerned about global rise of facial recognition technology

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Based on recent announcements by the likes of Facebook, Live Nation and a U.K. police force, Canadians may need to get used to the idea of facial recognition technology permeating their everyday lives. Source
  • Jupiter's backward-flying asteroid from another star system

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Just months after the discovery of our first known interstellar visitor, it turns out there's another asteroid from yet another star system residing in our cosmic club in plain view. Scientists reported Monday that this interstellar resident is an asteroid sharing Jupiter's orbit but circling in the opposite direction. Source
  • Extreme altruism: Why do some people help others at great risk to themselves?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Calvin Stein likes to help people, even if it means putting himself in danger to protect complete strangers. His altruism kicked into high gear on on July 9, 2016, when he ran straight into the path of runaway ponies to pick up a little girl and toss her to safety, only to get trampled himself. Source
  • Developer pushes back construction of Nova Scotia rocket launch site

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX -- The start date for the construction of Canada's only commercial spaceport has been pushed back, a developer said following meetings at the proposed rocket launch site near a small fishing community on Nova Scotia's eastern shore. Source
  • China launches relay satellite for far side moon landing

    Tech & Science CTV News
    A Long March-4C rocket carrying a relay satellite, named Queqiao (Magpie Bridge), is launched from southwest China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center, on May 21, 2018. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP) Source
  • Australian state government proposes protecting wild horses

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CANBERRA, Australia -- An Australian state government has decided to legally protect rather than kill thousands of wild horses, infuriating scientists who argue the feral species is doing severe environmental damage to the country's iconic Snowy Mountains alpine region. Source
  • Scientists say they've found an alien asteroid near Jupiter

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When an asteroid from outside our solar system was observed zipping through for the first time last year, it caused a lot of excitement. Now, a new study suggests another interstellar asteroid has actually been hiding here all this time. Source