Satellite system monitors looting at Egypt’s archaeological sites
a space archaeologist at the University of Alabama in the United States Sarah Parcak - Photo courtesy of

CAIRO: Sarah Parcak, a space archaeologist at the University of Alabama in the United States, has developed a satellite and infrared-based system to monitor ancient Egypt’s archaeological sites to prevent looting, according to

Space archaeology—sometimes called satellite archaeology—is a genuine subfield specializing in the use of satellites to visualize and assess terrain.

Parcak’s system uses Google Earth’s high resolution satellite imagery to identify and monitor what she calls “hot spots” where organized looting activities might occur.

“It was really hard before this technology to get a full sense of site damage from looting all over the world. It was one thing to see the pits, but it was really hard to systematically count them,” Parcak told the Guardian. “The satellite imagery allows us to track the extent of damage at sites, not only get a sense of numbers, but also track change to a site over time.”

Parcak added that satellite imagery also allows scientists to identify changes to the Earth’s surface.

“Buried archaeological remains affect the overlying vegetation, soils and even water in different ways, depending on the examined landscapes,” she added.

Parcak said that locating traffickers in looted archaeological sites could help auction houses and antiquity traders monitor stolen artifacts up for sale more closely, given that many objects are known to be from particular sites or to date back to specific periods in Egypt’s history.

She said the photos are taken from 400 miles (643.7 kilometers) above the earth’s surface and the infrared imagery can pinpoint and record structures less than two feet (0.6 meters) wide and completely invisible to the naked eye.

Her infrared-based system has already helped in the discovery of several archaeological sites, including tombs in Sakkara south of Giza, and ancient settlements in the modern city of Tanis, north of Lower Egypt’s governorate of Sharqia.

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