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Sarah Parcak is a space archaeologist who is this year’s TED Prize winner. Her unique work involves analyzing satellite imagery with computers to hunt for hints of buried ancient civilizations, structures, or artifacts. In Egypt alone, she’s identified 17 potential new pyramid sites, as well as 1,000 tombs and 3,100 unknown settlements. But with the amount of imagery that exists, it’s impossible for her and a few professionals to analyze it all.
With the $1 million in funding that comes with the prize, Parcak is launching a citizen science site that will ask people from all over the world to help analyze satellite imagery, identifying structures they think could be significant as well as looking for signs of looting that could destroy treasured ancient history.
"I wish for us to discover the millions of unknown archaeological sites around the world by creating a 21st-century army of global explorers," Parcak said on stage at TED 2016. In addition to discovery, the project "will help create a new global alarm system to help protect sites."
If the project goes anything like Planet Hunters, another citizen science project from TED speaker and Yale University astrophysicist Tabetha Boyajian, then there will be a lot to unearth. In her talk, Boyajian described a recent mystery that has rocked the space world over the last few years.