Harrison Ford made news recently by saying that he’d love to step back into the shoes of snake-fearing, whip-wielding, ill-tempered archaeologist Indiana Jones — but the iconic character may have just been trumped by the real thing.
While pursuing an advanced degree at Cambridge University, archaeologist Sarah Parcak pioneered a technique for processing infrared satellite imagery capable of detecting undiscovered sites in Egypt. She gave a TED talk (embedded above) on that very subject back in 2012 and, eventually, realized that her discovery could be employed in the fight against the theft and destruction of valuable antiquities.
TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to formulating and spreading big ideas, and Yahoo News reports that, on Monday, Sarah Parcak was declared as the winner of a 2016 TED Prize that provides $1 million dollars in funding to a particularly promising “wish” for the future.
With religious extremist groups and criminal organizations selling, defacing, and generally laying waste to precious antiquities left and right, conservationists everywhere are rushing to save as many sites as they can. The hope is that Parcak’s imaging technique can provide the international community with the means to identify which sites are under threat and act to save them.
“I am honored to receive the TED Prize, but it’s not about me; it’s about our field — and the thousands of men and women around the world, particularly in the Middle East, who are defending and protecting sites,” Parcak said. “The last four and half years have been horrific for archeology.”
Said TED Prize director Anna Verghese “At a moment when so many ancient sites are under threat — and being destroyed — it feels particularly poignant that we are awarding the TED Prize to a brilliant mind, committed to finding, sharing and protecting these gems.”
Congrats to Ms. Parcak and our thanks to all those who are fighting to preserve the history of civilization.