Real-world ‘In­di­ana Jones’ wins cov­eted TED Prize

Arche­ol­o­gist vows to use TED Prize to pro­tect trea­sures

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: A tech­nol­o­gy­wield­ing ar­chae­ol­o­gist billed as a modern world “In­di­ana Jones” won a cov­eted mil­lion-dol­lar TED prize Mon­day for her work track­ing an­tiq­ui­ties and the loot­ing of such won­ders.

Sarah Par­cak was named win­ner of a 2016 TED Prize that pro­vides a mil­lion dol­lars to kick­start a big-vi­sion “wish” and opens a door to call on the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­no­va­tive, in­flu­en­tial and in­ge­nious com­mu­nity of “ted­sters.”

Par­cak is to re­veal her wish at an an­nual TED Con­fer­ence in Van­cou­ver in Fe­bru­ary. “I am hon­ored to re­ceive the TED Prize, but it’s not about me; it’s about our field-and the thou­sands of men and women around the world, par­tic­u­larly in the Mid­dle East, who are de­fend­ing and pro­tect­ing sites,” Par­cak said.

“The last four and half years have been hor­rific for arche­ol­ogy.” Par­cak be­moaned ex­ten­sive loot­ing and de­struc­tion at ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sights that she has mapped us­ing a method she cre­ated for pro­cess­ing satel­lite im­agery.

The arche­ol­o­gist vowed to use the TED Prize to rally the world to find and pro­tect such trea­sures. “At a mo­ment when so many an­cient sites are un­der threat-and be­ing de­stroyed-it feels par­tic­u­larly poignant that we are award­ing the TED Prize to a bril­liant mind, com­mit­ted to find­ing, shar­ing and pro­tect­ing these gems,” said TED Prize direc­tor Anna Vergh­ese.

Hid­den tombs

Par­cak was in­tro­duced to aerial pho­tog­ra­phy through her grand­fa­ther’s use of it in forestry work. She was study­ing Egyp­tol­ogy at Yale when she be­gan ex­plor­ing the po­ten­tial for us­ing more modern tools to ap­ply her grand­fa­ther’s ap­proach to arche­ol­ogy, ac­cord­ing to TED.

Par­cak was pur­su­ing an ad­vanced de­gree at Cam­bridge University when she cre­ated a tech­nique for pro­cess­ing in­frared im­agery from satel­lites that helped her de­tect undis­cov­ered ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in Egypt. She has since turned to map­ping loot­ing. Her work has caused some to re­fer to Par­cak as a modern-age, real-world ver­sion of the In­dian Jones char­ac­ter made fa­mous in films star­ring Har­ri­son Ford.

“TED is com­mit­ted to the an­cient tra­di­tion of sto­ry­telling, and mak­ing it rel­e­vant to a modern, global au­di­ence,”Vergh­ese said.

“Sarah’s work hon­ors that-she uses 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy to make the world’s an­cient, in­vis­i­ble his­tory vis­i­ble once again.”

Par­cak is a pro­fes­sor at the University of Alabama at Birm­ing­ham, where she founded the Lab­o­ra­tory for Global Ob­ser­va­tion. She has won at­ten­tion for her work satel­lite map­ping Egypt and un­cov­er­ing hid­den pyra­mids, tombs and set­tle­ments. Par­cak and her team have been cred­ited with also dis­cov­er­ing an­cient sites in Europe, the Mediter­ranean and North Amer­ica as well as ex­ten­sively map­ping loot­ing in Egypt.

The an­nual TED Prize has grown from $100,000 to a mil­lion dol­lars since it was first awarded in the year 2005, to U2 band leader Bono and his vi­sion of fight­ing poverty and dis­ease.

The list of pre­vi­ous win­ners in­cludes oceans-de­fender Sylvia Earle and Sto­ryCorps founder Dave Isay, whose wish was to use smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tions to ar­chive the spo­ken wis­dom of hu­man­ity.

The TED com­mu­nity in­cludes sci­en­tists, celebri­ties, politi­cians, artists, and en­trepreneurs. Since be­ing born in Cal­i­for­nia in 1984, the gath­er­ing has grown into a global fo­rum for “ideas worth spread­ing.”

TED has won a world­wide fol­low­ing for trade­mark “talks” dur­ing which ac­com­plished speak­ers de­liver thought-spark­ing pre­sen­ta­tions. Videos of talks are avail­able for free on­line at — AFP

This un­dated photo pro­vided by Google shows chief business of­fi­cer Omid Kordestani. Twit­ter has named Kordestani as its ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, the com­pany an­nounced. — AP

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