Sarah Parcak

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Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak, 2014 (crop).jpg
Parcak in 2014
Sarah Helen Parcak

1979 (age 41–42)
OccupationProfessor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Archaeologist, Egyptologist, Remote Sensing Archaeologist
Spouse(s)Greg Mumford[1]
Childrenson, born 2012

Sarah Helen Parcak is an American archaeologist, Egyptologist, and remote sensing expert,[2] who has used satellite imaging to identify potential archaeological sites in Egypt, Rome, and elsewhere in the former Roman Empire. She is a professor of Anthropology and director of the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In partnership with her husband, Greg Mumford, she directs survey and excavation projects in the Faiyum, Sinai, and Egypt's East Delta.


Parcak was born in Bangor, Maine, and received her bachelor's degree in Egyptology and Archaeological Studies from Yale University in 2001, and her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. She is a professor of Anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB); prior to that she was a teacher of Egyptian art and history at the University of Wales, Swansea.[3][4]


From 2003 to 2004, Parcak used a combination of satellite imaging analysis and surface surveys to discover 17 new pyramid and thousands of sites of archaeological interest, some dating back to 3,000 B.C.[5]

In partnership with her husband, Dr. Greg Mumford, she directs Survey and Excavation Projects in the Fayoum, Sinai, and Egypt's East Delta. They have used several types of satellite imagery to look for water sources and possible archaeological sites.[5][6] According to Parcak, this approach reduces the time and cost for determining archaeological sites compared to surface detection.[7]

In 2007, she founded the Laboratory for Global Observation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.[1][6]

In 2009, satellite imagery was evidence of how looting had escalated in Egypt.[8]

In 2011, Parcak claimed to have discovered 17 previously unknown pyramids in Egypt as well as more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 settlements.[9] although the Minister of State for Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, said that this claim was "not accurate"[10]

In 2015, she won the $1 million TED Prize for 2016.[11]

In 2016, she was the recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the History category.[12]

In 2020, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 2020 Fellowship.[13]


In May 2011, the BBC aired a documentary, Egypt's Lost Cities, describing BBC-sponsored research carried out by Parcak's UAB team for over a year using infra-red satellite imaging from commercial and NASA satellites.[14] The programme discussed the research and showed Parcak in Egypt looking for physical evidence. The UAB team announced that they had "discovered" 17 pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements outside Sa el-Hagar, Egypt.[15] However, the Minister of State for Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, was critical of the announcement and said : "This is completely wrong information. Any archeologist will deny this completely".[16]

In May 2012, she was the subject of a half-hour program on CNN's The Next List which profiles innovators "who are setting trends and making strides in various fields."[17][18]

She was the focus of "Rome's Lost Empire", a TV documentary by Dan Snow, first shown on BBC One [19] on 9 December 2012. She prospectively identified several significant sites in Romania, Nabataea, Tunisia, and Italy, including the arena at Portus, the lighthouse and a canal to Rome beside the river Tiber.[20]

A BBC co-production with PBS, NOVA/WGBH Boston and France Television, Vikings Unearthed (first broadcast April 4, 2016) documented her use of satellite imagery to detect possible remains of a Norse / Viking presence at Point Rosee, Newfoundland. In 2015, Parcak found what she thought to be the remains of a turf wall and roasted bog iron ore; however, the 2016 excavation showed that the "turf wall" and accumulation of bog iron ore were the results of natural processes.[21][22]


In 2009, her book Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology was published by Routledge, describing the methodology of satellite archaeology.[2] A review in Antiquity described it as focusing "more on technical methodology than interpretation and analysis," described Parcak's work as, "written in a lively style that makes a highly technical subject accessible to a general audience," and concluded that it was "a good introduction for undergraduate students of archaeology, anthropology and geography."[23]

She published Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past in July 2019.[24]


In September 2020, Parcak's employer, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, called Parcak out for inflammatory political Twitter posts aimed toward supporters of then-president Donald Trump following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Earlier the same year she was criticized for subtly suggesting ways to destroy public property.[25]

After Rush Limbaugh's death early in 2021, Parcak tweeted that she hoped Limbaugh suffered until his last breath. The tweet is protected under the first amendment according to the ACLU of Alabama in spite of calls to terminate her position as a professor.[26]


  1. ^ a b Sarah H. Parcak Faculty Directory, University of Alabama at Birmingham. Accessed 5 November 2015
  2. ^ a b Parcak, Sarah (2009). Satellite Remote Sensing for Arcaheology. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781134060450.
  3. ^ From the UNLV Department of Art website
  4. ^ Hawass, Zahi. "BBC Satellite Project". Zahi Hawass. Archived from the original on 2012-03-24.
  5. ^ a b "University of Alabama at Birmingham Media Relations". April 23, 2007. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  6. ^ a b UNESCO International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST), 2 Nov 2013, Dr. Sarah Parcak and Gregory Mumford visit HIST
  7. ^ "Survey and Excavation Projects in Egypt website". Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Mueller, Tom (June 2016). "How Tomb Raiders Are Stealing Our History". National Geographic.
  9. ^ "UAB professor discovers lost pyramids, other antiquities in Egypt". UAB News. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  10. ^ "News broadcast by BBC is inaccurate, says Hawass". Ahram Online. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  11. ^ "Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak wins $1M 2016 TED prize". Retrieved 2015-11-11.
  12. ^ Tucker, Abigail (December 2016). "Space Archaeologist Sarah Parcak Uses Satellites to Uncover Ancient Egyptian Ruins". Smithsonian. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  13. ^ Taunton, Yvonne (9 April 2020). "UAB's Sarah Parcak awarded John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation 2020 Fellowship". UAB News. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Egypt's Lost Cities". BBC One( June 3, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2012.
  15. ^ Cronin, Frances (May 25, 2011). "Egyptian pyramids found by infra-red satellite images". BBC News. Retrieved December 10, 2012. Dr Sarah Parcak Space Archaeologist
  16. ^ Theodoulou, Michael (May 29, 2011). "Idea of 17 hidden pyramids is 'wrong'". The National. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  17. ^ Alex WePrin (7 October 2011). "CNN Planning New Weekend Program, The Next List". TV Newser.
  18. ^ "This week on 'The Next List': a space archaeologist". CNN. May 22, 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  19. ^ "Rome's Lost Empire, BBC One, review". Telegraph. Dec 10, 2012.
  20. ^ BBC 4, 31 December 2013, Rome's Lost Empire
  21. ^ Parcak, Sarah; Mumford, Gregory (November 8, 2017). "Point Rosee, Codroy Valley, NL (ClBu-07) 2016 Test Excavations under Archaeological Investigation Permit #16.26" (PDF)., 42 pages. Retrieved June 19, 2018. [The 2015 and 2016 excavations] found no evidence whatsoever for either a Norse presence or human activity at Point Rosee prior to the historic period. […] None of the team members, including the Norse specialists, deemed this area [Point Rosee] as having any traces of human activity.
  22. ^ Bird, Lindsay (May 30, 2018). "Archeological quest for Codroy Valley Vikings comes up short - Report filed with province states no Norse activity found at dig site". CBC.
  23. ^ Donoghue, Daniel. Review of Sarah H. Parcak. "Satellite remote sensing for archaeology" , Antiquity, Volume 084 Issue 325 September 2010
  24. ^ Parcak, Sarah (2019). Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  25. ^ "UAB: 'Space archaeologist' Sarah Parcak calling Trump supporters 'bootlickers' was 'poor judgment'". September 22, 2020. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  26. ^ "Legal experts: Sarah Parcak's tweet about Rush Limbaugh protected by First Amendment".

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