Sarah Parcak

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Sarah Parcak
Sarah Parcak, 2014 (crop).jpg
Parcak in 2014
Born Sarah Helen Parcak
Bangor, Maine, U.S.
Occupation Associate Professor, Archaeologist, Egyptologist, Remote Sensing Archaeologist
Spouse(s) Greg Mumford[1]

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 the associate 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 an associate professor of Anthropology in 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 search for 132 potential 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 2015, she won the $1 million TED Prize for 2016.[8]

In 2015, Parcak visited L'Anse aux Meadows – an archeological site discovered in 1960, in Newfoundland – in order to demonstrate that satellite imagery can detect artifacts in regions covered by tall grasses and other plant life.[9]


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.[10] 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.[11] 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".[12]

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."[13][14]

She was the focus of "Rome's Lost Empire", a TV documentary by Dan Snow, first shown on BBC One [15] 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.[16]

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.[17][18] Additional test results are pending.[19]


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."[20]


  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. 
  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. ^ Updated 12:38 PM ET, Tue November 10, 2015. "Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak wins $1M 2016 TED prize". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  9. ^ Mark Strauss (2016-03-31). "Discovery Could Rewrite History of Vikings in New World". Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  10. ^ "Egypt's Lost Cities". BBC One( June 3, 2011. Retrieved December 10, 2012. 
  11. ^ Cronin, Frances (May 25, 2011). "Egyptian pyramids found by infra-red satellite images". BBC News). Retrieved December 10, 2012. Dr Sarah Parcak Space Archaeologist 
  12. ^ Theodoulou, Michael (May 29, 2011). "Idea of 17 hidden pyramids is 'wrong'". The National. Retrieved October 18, 2016. 
  13. ^ Alex WePrin (7 October 2011). "CNN Planning New Weekend Program, The Next List". TV Newser. 
  14. ^ "This week on 'The Next List': a space archaeologist". CNN. May 22, 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "Rome's Lost Empire, BBC One, review". Telegraph. Dec 10, 2012. 
  16. ^ BBC 4, 31 December 2013, Rome's Lost Empire
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Pringle, Heather (March 2017). "Vikings". National Geographic. 231 (3). 
  20. ^ Donoghue, Daniel. Review of Sarah H. Parcak. "Satellite remote sensing for archaeology" , Antiquity, Volume 084 Issue 325 September 2010

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