Hacking archaeology: beyond shovels or iSandbox?

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Event Speaker: 

Sarah Parcak, CEO , Spectral Globe Technologies

Event Location: 

32-123

Event Date/Time: 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 4:30pm

Research Area: 

Dertouzos Distinguished Lecture Series

 

Abstract:

Archaeology today represents a time consuming endeavor. After months of preparation, experts head into the field, where they meticulously collect data about soil, bones, and ancient objects. The tools most archaeologists use for mapping and site recording are expensive and generally require significant expertise. There are also significant challenges with data storage and dissemination. Archaeology is now beginning to enter the age of "big data", where countrywide/culture-wide data are available, yet archaeologists are only beginning to develop appropriate computational tools to handle and evaluate them. Compared to many other fields, archaeology has only just begun to be “hacked”, with 3D printing, satellite imagery, crowdsourcing, and new digital recording techniques. What else could be done on the ground using low cost sensors and robots? This talk will present the current state of archaeology and discuss new and innovative and approaches being used at diverse ancient sites. It will suggest areas where using sensors could potentially change the field, making fieldwork more efficient, inexpensive, and accessible to a broader audience. The talk will also show how the analysis of high resolution satellite images (using specific algorithms) can be combined with on the ground sensors to improve site mapping and feature discovery, focusing on Egypt and Peru as case studies. How new 3D modelling approaches using open source software may change the field will also be discussed.

Bio:

Sarah Parcak is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and is the Founding Director of the UAB Laboratory for Global Observation. She the author of Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology (Routledge 2009). Her research represents the first large-scale landscape archaeology approaches to the field of Egyptology. Her remote sensing work has been the focus of two BBC-Discovery Channel specials on the use of satellite remote sensing in Archaeology: Egypt’s Lost Cities (2011), and Rome: What Lies Beneath (2012). She has published numerous peer-reviewed papers and presented at conferences and symposia across the globe. Sarah is the 2016 TED Prize winner, a National Geographic Fellow, a TED Senior Fellow and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Her TED talk on the field of "space archaeology" can be viewed here.