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An Archaeologist’s Quest to Combat Looting through Satellite Technology Receives $1Million TED Prize

November 12, 2015

CAI with Sarah Parcak
Dr. Parcak (right) with the Egyptian Embassy’s Hani Nagi and Antiquities Coalition team members Deborah Lehr, Katie Paul, and Peter Herdrich (left to right)

The Antiquities Coalition is delighted to congratulate our friend and colleague Dr. Sarah Parcak, recipient of the 2016 TED Prize for her work to combat looting in Egypt through the innovative use of satellite technology!

Yesterday, the New York Times first broke the news that TED has awarded its prestigious honor to Dr. Parcak, who is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and founding director of UAB’s Laboratory for Global Observation. The TED Prize is an annual $1 million grant to “a bold leader with a wish to spark global change.” Dr. Parcak won the award for her use of infrared imagery from satellites to find and protect ancient sites in the Middle East. The fund will be used to continue and expand this important work.

The International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities – an Antiquities Coalition initiative – commissioned research from Dr. Parcak to quantify and qualify cultural racketeering in Egypt. Her satellite analysis, confirmed by on-the-ground surveys at select sites, found that illicit digging at previously known archaeological sites had increased 500-1000% since the January 2011 revolution. She also estimated that cultural racketeering has cost Egypt $1 billion each year in stolen goods since that time.

Armed with this data, the Antiquities Coalition has been working to build the political will needed to tackle the cultural racketeering crisis, as demonstrated by the 2015 Cairo Conference and New York Forum. We thank Dr. Parcak for her support and again offer her our congratulations. Dr. Parcak’s TED Prize ‘wish’ will be revealed on February 16, 2016, and you can register for updates on her TED Prize Journey here.

Learn how Sarah Parcak’s satellite research contributed to the Antiquities Coalition’s work to #CombatLooting here.