UAB’s space archaeologist makes innovative discoveries and headlines

Sarah Parcak is featured in the February issue of National Geographic.

sarah_parcak_sUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Associate Professor of Anthropology Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., uses satellite imagery to uncover — from space — ancient sites around the world that were thought lost forever. Her research is being highlighted in the February 2013 issue of National Geographic in the magazine’s “New Age of Exploration” section. In honor of the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary, Parcak was a featured guest on a show about the commemoration on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation.”

A member of the 2012 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers, Parcak is an expert in the field of remote sensing. She made international headlines when she became the first Egyptologist to use infrared satellite imaging to identify previously unknown archaeological sites. From her Laboratory for Global Observation at UAB, Parcak can spot ancient sites hidden beneath the desert surface under centuries of sediment. She then travels to those locations to confirm through excavation that they exist.

During a 2011 project to look for Egyptian sites via satellite, Parcak uncovered 17 potential new pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and more than 3,000 ancient settlements. On location, she and a team of archaeologists were able to confirm and unearth many of those discoveries. Her work was documented on the BBC and The Discovery Channel, as well as noted in newspapers, television and radio stories around the world.

A member of the 2012 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers, Parcak is an expert in the field of remote sensing.

Parcak’s research has reinvigorated exploration for ancient sites throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. She was recently featured in “Rome’s Lost Empire,” an 80-minute film documentary on the BBC. She spent months using advanced satellite imagery techniques to identify long-buried sections of the Roman Empire, and she uncovered a host of hidden finds, including an amphitheater and the likely location of a famous lighthouse.

Parcak, who is also a 2012 TED Fellow, has been awarded numerous research grants and contracts from NASA, U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society. She is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and was a featured lecturer (2009-12) of the Archaeological Institute of America. She received the UAB Exceptional Innovation Award in 2011, as well as the UAB Honorary Alumni Award in 2012.

Parcak also wrote the first book detailing the methods of satellite archaeology and plans to further her work in Egypt, where she will return for survey and excavation soon.