cover image Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past

Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past

Sarah Parcak. Holt, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250198-28-0

Anthropology professor Parcak spiritedly educates general audience about an expanding new field that applies “air- or space-based data” to study landscapes and thus increase understanding of human history. For example, Brazilian archaeologists found satellite evidence suggesting over a million people lived in part of the Amazon basin during pre-Columbian times. Parcak humanizes her topic by tracing her interest in it to her grandfather, a WWII-era Army paratrooper who, after the war, applied his aerial-photograph-analysis skills to forestry, inventing a then-revolutionary way to gauge tree heights. She also looks at the evolution of space archaeology, tracing it to a NASA intern, Mary Marguerite Scalera, who first identified its potential in 1970. Parcak even offers her audience the opportunity to participate; she founded GlobalXplorer, an online platform that uses crowdsourcing to analyze satellite images to, as she said during the 2015 TED talk that secured her funding, “find and protect the world’s hidden heritage, which contains clues to humankind’s collective resilience and creativity.” At the conclusion, Parcak notes that, since GlobalXplorer’s founding, more than 80,000 users from over 100 countries have contributed their time to looking at satellite images. Bolstered by this empowering pitch for the general reader’s involvement, Parcak’s book provides a revelatory look at an exciting new field. (July)