An archeological space oddity

Nick Paumgarten at the New Yorker: “…Parcak is a pioneer in the use of remote sensing, via satellite, to find and map potential locations that would otherwise be invisible to us. Variations in the chemical composition of the earth reveal the ghost shadows of ancient walls and citadels, watercourses and planting fields. The nifty kid-friendly name for all this is “archeology from space,” which also happens to be the title of Parcak’s new book. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because, technically, the satellites in question are in the mid-troposphere, and also the archeology still happens on, or under, the ground. In spite of the whiz-bang abracadabra of the multispectral imagery, Parcak is, at heart, a shovel bum…..Another estimate of Parcak’s, based on satellite data: there are roughly fifty million unmapped archeological sites around the world. Many, if not most, will be gone or corrupted by 2040, she says, the threats being not just looting but urban development, illegal construction, and climate change. In 2016, Parcak won the ted Prize, a grant of a million dollars; she used it to launch a project called GlobalXplorer, a crowdsourcing platform, by which citizen Indiana Joneses can scrutinize satellite maps and identify potential new sites, adding these to a database without publicly revealing the coördinates. The idea is to deploy more eyeballs (and, ultimately, more benevolent shovel bums) in the race against carbon and greed….(More)”.