There is so much buried beneath our Earth, and when we discover these items, we learn more about the history and culture of our world. Advances in technology, imagery and data taken by satellites can help locate hidden treasures beneath the Earth’s surface! And, the career path to discover these findings belongs to that of Space Archaeologists (one of the coolest job titles ever!).

Satellite imagery of the pyramid of Amenemhet II, a Middle Kingdom ruler.

“Space archaeology refers to the use of space- and air-based sensor systems to discover ancient settlements, cultural remains, and natural features otherwise invisible to the naked eye, or hidden due to vegetation and water. Archaeologists use datasets from NASA and commercial satellites, processing the information using various off-the-shelf computer programs. These datasets allow us to see beyond the visible part of the light spectrum into the near, middle, and far infrared. These spectral differences can show subtle differences in vegetation, soil, and geology which then can reveal hidden ancient features.” [1]

To learn a little more about the technology, Earth scientist Compton Tucker explains the use of satellite imagery and radar technology in space archaeology in the video below.



The great thing with the use of this technology is it allows for a more accurate excavation plan. “Archaeology is inherently a labor intensive, and thus expensive in terms of time and money, so we rarely get to excavate an entire site. [The technology] allow us to collect data on parts of the site we might otherwise not be able to investigate,” said Philip Mink II, a GIS manager and staff archaeologist from the University of Kentucky, Department of Anthropology. “These investigations may locate archaeological features such as houses, tombs, burials, trash and storage pits, and ceramic firing areas that can be targeted for excavation given the limited money and time field archaeologists often face.” [2]

131003_FUT_SpaceArchaeology.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeOne person making huge advances within this field for the last several years is Sarah Parcak, who was the recipient of the 2016 TED Prize, with her wish to protect the world’s cultural heritage. “A professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Parcak founded the Laboratory for Global Observation and wrote the first textbook on satellite archaeology. She’s a TED Senior Fellow and a National Geographic Explorer, and she has appeared in the BBC and Discovery Channel documentaries Egypt’s Lost Cities and Rome’s Lost Empire.” [3] She also found Tanis,the site made famous by the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark! In 2012, she gave a TED talk about her experience using space to locate lost ancient sites. But more recently she was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert talking about what she does for a living. Check it out below:



So if you have a dream to be the next Indiana Jones discovering the lost history of our ancestors, but with a more tech savvy edge, then look no further than the career of Space Archaeologist!


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