A renowned space archaeologist gives readers an insider’s look at her field, which is basically Indiana Jones meets cutting-edge satellite technology. It’s every bit as exciting as it sounds.
Discovering ancient civilizations by digging them up has always had grand romantic appeal. Parcak (Anthropology/Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham; Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology, 2009), the president and founder of GlobalXplorer and winner of the TED Prize, was among a generation of kids wooed by archaeology in movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark. But unlike most of us, she followed through on her passion, committing early to archaeology and pioneering the use of advanced technologies as a means to significantly improve the chances of the discovery of a lost site. Such excavations offer much more than just a cache of dusty loot; as she writes, “that dirt contains nothing less than the clues to who we are, how we got here, and how we might thrive in the future.” In this fascinating adventure memoir, the author describes how remote sensing technology powered by orbiting satellites has transformed archaeologists’ ability to locate and verify sites that might otherwise never have been discovered. As the lead in many big discoveries around the world, from Egypt to Newfoundland, Parcak has a lot of great stories to tell, and she tells them with clarity, enthusiasm, and humor. She also looks into the future, explaining that artificial intelligence and DNA analysis could further push the field into territory that only recently would have been considered sci-fi. And then there is crowdsourcing: The author is optimistic that regular people have the power to “find and protect the world’s hidden heritage” through the online mapping of millions of undiscovered sites. Us, space archaeologists? There is no doubt that she will have no shortage of volunteers.
Exciting and futuristic, this book elicits that anything-is-possible feeling—a must-read.