Sarah Parcak: A Modern Indiana Jones Powered By Satellites

We all enjoyed watching the adventures of Indiana Jones, with his striking and distinctive look, and his deep knowledge of ancient civilizations and languages. In the 21st century, we have our own, female Indiana Jones, but this time – it is not about movies or any other kind of fiction. She is a brave, true explorer with great vision, who uses information provided by technology far above the Earth’s surface to investigate our ancient cultural heritage. Her name is Sarah Parcak.

Sarah Parcak is an amazing scientist, an Egyptologist by vocation, often called the modern Indiana Jones. She uses NASA topography to map out landscapes around the world. By analyzing satellite images using complex algorithms, she can see the subtle changes in vegetation, below the surface, which can indicate ancient manmade presence. Using infrared technology, Parcak and her team have made revolutionary breakthroughs in the field of archaeology. Today, it is estimated that only around 10% of the Earth’s surface has been explored. But with Parcak’s vision, thousands of ancient cities may be discovered in the years to come. She has recognized the huge potential of connecting technology and archaeology, and expanding the community that can get involved. Satellites are an extremely helpful tool, since they can show archaeologists where to look.

Parcak has won a 1 million dollar TED Prize for her achievements and future plans. Her wish is to build an online citizens’ science platform which will be a modern tool for educating future explorers and helping them in the process of discovering and preserving ancient cities – a huge global cultural heritage that belongs to us all. The project has been launched and it is called GlobalXplorer, but it needs additional help, especially in the form of financial support. This online platform is just a beginning: Parcak has huge plans that include designing a specialized satellite for archaeological research. If you wish to contribute financially, you can send an email to and explore the possibilities, or send an email directly to her.

Parcak has also shown concern about the black market: ancient artifacts worth millions of dollars are being looted and sold across the world every year. Not to mention the horrific destruction of ancient cities in the Middle East, done at the hand of terrorists. Passionate curiosity is obvious in Parcak’s work, and her project is all about strengthening the community, sharing knowledge, and discovering who we were (in a historical sense) in order to better understand who we are today.


Photos: From the Archive of Sarah Parcak

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