GlobalXplorer blog series, part 1: monitoring and preventing looting in Peru

Dr. Sarah Parcak annoucing her places to use the $1 million TED prize earlier this year.Earlier this year, National Geographic Fellow Dr. Sarah Parcak announced plans to use a $1 million TED Prize to turn everyday global citizens into space archaeologists. What does that mean, exactly? By leveraging DigitalGlobe’s high-resolution satellite imagery and crowdsourcing platform, volunteer explorers will be able to help monitor known archaeological sites and discover potential new locations right from their computers.

GlobalXplorer logoThe project, called GlobalXplorer, is set to launch in January 2017. The first of three tasks is to monitor sites that have already been found, even if by thieves. Specifically, volunteers will be asked to document signs of looting by reviewing small sections of satellite imagery one at a time and record evidence of looting activity. GlobalXplorer is equipped to receive millions of individual volunteer inputs which will produce a heat map of looting activity for Dr. Parcak and her team. The data will be shared with local governments who will work with archaeologists to protect and secure the sites.

Only DigitalGlobe’s constellation of Earth-imaging satellites has the resolution and spatial accuracy to develop the high-quality data set required for the GlobalXplorer project. The imagery will be hosted on a brand new GlobalXplorer website and utilizes the crowdsourcing technology behind DigitalGlobe’s public crowdsourcing website, Tomnod.

Dr. Parcak’s wish is to discover more about our shared human story, so naturally her scope is worldwide. GlobalXplorer will begin by digitally transporting its volunteers to Peru, a country known for its rich archaeological history and hundreds of undiscovered sites. Over 200,000km2 of satellite imagery will be made accessible for volunteers to explore.

Thousands of looting pits appeared in Apamea, Syria over a relatively short period of time. When comparing imagery from 2011 and 2015 you can see the difference.
Thousands of looting pits appeared in Apamea, Syria over a relatively short period of time. When comparing imagery from 2011 and 2015 you can see the difference.

GlobalXplorer members will start with a crash course on ‘looting’: why it happens and what it looks like from the ground and in satellite imagery.

If you are interested in joining this journey of discovery and would like to get up-to-date notifications on the status of the project right up until launch date, check out the project’s home site and submit your email address.