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Feb 03, 2017 07:02 AM EST

New Website Crowdsources Potential Archaeological Sites

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A new website has been developed by space archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak. It will enable members of the public to help search for potential archaeological sites.

BBC reported that the online tool was set up by Dr. Parcak using money from the Ted conference. It is described as "Indiana Jones meets Google Earth" and will also allow the public to help prevent looting.

The website is named GlobalXplorer. It is still limited to sites in Peru, though.

It uses satellite imagery collected above the Earth. The data is then analyzed with algorithms to identify evidence of hidden human-made structures. The technique has led to Dr. Parcak discovering 17 potential pyramids, 3,000 settlements and 1,000 lost tombs in Egypt.

She said that the website is intended to encourage the public to protect the world's hidden heritage. GlobalXplorer was created to empower a modern army of global explorers to "discover and protect our shared history."

According to Live Science, the website's design is based on a platform developed by DigitalGlobe named Tomnod. It allows users to annotate satellite photos and map related objects to events like wildfires and earthquake recovery missions.

Speaking to the publication, Dr. Parcak admitted that the goal of the online tool was not only to bring in more people to become interested in analyzing archaeological sites but also to keep them coming back. With this, the platform has gaming elements like leveling up users as they gain proficiency as well as unlocking rewards as scientists collect and review their data.

NPR noted that looters look for areas of interest to find valuable artifacts and proceed to dig several large holes or go as far as bulldoze whole areas. This destroys the context that would have helped archaeologists understand past cultures.

Man-made pits reportedly always appear in groups and generally have a round or rounded-square shape. When looking at satellite images, pits contrast with the landscape surrounding them and are usually 2 to 5 meters in diameter.

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