This Crowdsourcing Platform Will Turn Users Into Space Archaeologists


Using satellite image technology, space archaeologist Sarah Parcak has located 3100 ancient settlements, 17 potential Egyptian pyramids, and 1000 lost tombs during her career. It's possible there are millions of these sites still waiting to be discovered by archaeologists—unless looters get there first. With the goal of locating as many of these sites as possible, Parcak plans to launch a game that enlists the help of the Internet's citizen scientists.

Parcak announced last week that she would use the $1 million TED Prize she was awarded last November to develop a platform called Global Xplorer. According to National Geographic, the program will teach users to scan satellite images for potential areas of archaeological significance and distinguish known sites from undiscovered ones. If they think they've found something significant, users can tag an image and add their description. According to Popular Science, images that have been tagged a certain number of times will be evaluated by experts to determine if anything's actually there.

Any new information Parcak and her team find will be provided to archaeologists working in the area, on the condition that they will make their excavations transparent through apps like Periscope, Google Hangout, or Twitter. This means that the citizen scientist who discovers a site using Global Xplorer could continue to follow the excavation online. 

Satellite imaging provides archaeologists with more data than they've ever had before; the problem is finding the time and energy to pore over it all. Anyone with a relatively sharp eye and some time to kill will be able to use Parcak's app, which is scheduled to launch by the fall. Eventually, she hopes to make the program accessible in multiple languages to users around the globe. 

[h/t National Geographic]