Ancient history school: what's new with the old?

Dr Sarah Parcak - eyes from the skies

Dr Sarah Parcak - eyes from the skies

As I teach in an all girls school, I am conscious of highlighting the incredibly important role that women play in the field of archaeology and ancient history in general. Previously, I have discussed books written by Dr Kara Cooney and Dr Joyce Tyldesley. Today, I want to look at Dr Sarah Parcak and the way she is using satellite technology to identify potential archaeological sites for further exploration. Not only is she a role model for further archaeologists, she is role model for girls who are interested in STEM. There are some classroom activity ideas at the end too!

Sarah is a Yale graduate with degrees in Egyptology and archaeology. What makes her work exciting is that Sarah uses satellite technology (remote sensing technology) to locate and excavate archaeological sites. Sarah has been able to identify a range of exciting new sites in Egypt and Rome. She is the recipient of several awards and is the author of Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology (2009). Currently, she is faculty director at University of Alabama.

Sarah has worked on a number of documentaries that show how satellite technology works. In a nutshell, this is Sarah explaining it here. Clearly, archaeology has come a long way from the “pick a site and dig it” approach that operated over 100 years ago.

Why is this important in my classroom? I want my students to see archaeology as a living science - one that can change with the times and improve with technology. I want the girls in my class to see that there is a roll that they can play here - they can even combine their love of ancient history with their love of science. In class, we look at the development of the science of archaeology from Sir Flinders Petrie, Sir Leonard Woolley, Howard Carter and Giuseppe Fiorelli. Dominated by men, early archaeology was exciting but women were not necessarily given the same airtime (here is a list of pioneering women in archaeology). Fast forward to the 21st C and the girls in my class are still fascinated by the science of archaeology and dream of making the next big discovery. They are also techno-wizards. Dr Parcak shows them how to combine both in an exciting way.

Next term, I intend to introduce some new material and new activities into the archaeology unit that I teach in Year 11. I am keen to put Dr Parcak front and centre. If you are interested, here are some of my ideas:

  • research Dr Sarah Parcak using some of the links below

  • What is space archaeology? youtube clip here

  • A detailed journal article by Dr Parcak here

  • use google maps to locate and explore some archaeological sites around the world.

  • use Google expeditions with VR headsets to explore inside some of these sites.

  • research the emerging field of digital reconstruction. Youtube clip here

  • choose some specific examples of reconstruction and research the importance of the cultural heritage and how UNESCO might be working towards long term solutions.

  • if you have access to a 3D printer, work with your technology department to print 3D artifacts from a site or culture that you have researched.

  • perhaps you could set up an artefacts cabinet.

  • talk to your science department about setting up a joint activity if they are using satellite technology

Go forth and conquer!

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