Space archaeologist holds lecture on campus

SarahBeth Davis

A “space archaeologist” held a lecture in Van Meter Hall last night where she discussed the profession she describes as a “remote sensing expert.”

“I get a ton of questions, people asking if I’m looking for aliens, but I turn the satellites around. I’m looking for ancient versions of us,” said the speaker Sarah Parcak.

She uses satellite technology to watch for signs of looters and to analyze potential dig sites. Those in her field are capable of identifying possible locations by noticing subtle changes above ground.

With this technology, her team was able to locate around 200,000 looting pits in 300 archaeological sites. By finding these, the team can more easily prevent the stealing and black market sales of artifacts.

Her most recent project crowdsources this process. The website launched Jan. 30 and is available for public use. It works by having users identify features which may indicate looting or encroachment, then later has them looking for possible ancient sites.

“In studying the past and learning the past, we should all have hope for the future,” said Parcak.

The lecture was open to the public. Students and faculty were in attendance as well as other Bowling Green residents.

“I learned so much since I’m not an archaeology major, so it was my first time really hearing about this subject,” said senior Yash Parekh. “I didn’t know it went that deep.”

Parekh cited current issues such as the destruction of historic sites by ISIL and the looting of artifacts as threats to the preservation of history. However, her team has started employing locals to help prevent damages. This empowers those living near dig sites and helps sustain what Parekh sees as humanity’s collective history.

“There is so much more that unites us than divides us,” she said at both the beginning and near the end of her talk.

This lecture was part of the WKU Cultural Enhancement Series.

There will be two more events in the series including the Black Violin event on Feb. 21 and David Sedaris event on April 22.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the Black Violin event was taking place on Feb 23. It actually took place on Feb. 21. The Herald regrets the error.