INFINITI and Dr. Sarah Parcak: Challenging Convention Through Exploration

Many parts of the world are still untouched and unexplored. To some, it may come as a surprise, but for archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak, the golden age of archaeological discovery is now.

As part of its 30th anniversary, INFINITI recently supported a mini expedition in Petra, Jordan, to explore a site Dr. Parcak helped discover using satellite imaging.

Employing NASA imaging technology and a fleet of QX80s and QX50s, INFINITI followed the ancient King's Road from the Dead Sea to the historic trading center of Petra to visit a this discovery,  symbolic of the evolution of modern archaeology.

Leading the expedition to Petra, Jordan, Dr. Parcak guided an exclusive tour of her incredible findings for a small group of journalists, using unconventional methods not typically seen in archeological study.

In her particular field of archaeology, Dr. Parcak analyzes imagery collected from satellites far above the Earth's surface and identifies subtle changes that signal a manmade presence hidden from view.

Her techniques have helped locate archaeological sites in Egypt, Tunisia, Romania, Italy, and Scotland, and given us greater insight into mankind's history.

"Studying archaeology allows us to contextualize the bad and good and reframe how we deal with issues like climate change, migration and societal collapse," Dr. Parcak said. "There is no one solution to any of those challenges, but studying the past enriches our ability to handle them."

"We have this mistaken assumption that humanity has evolved significantly in hundreds of thousands of years," she added. "We think we have modern problems, but access to food, water, healthcare and finding a place to settle are issues as old as we are."

How INFINITI Challenges Convention

INFINITI has a long track-record of challenging convention, including supporting experts such as Dr. Parcak and creating vehicles that allow anyone to tap into their sense of adventure.

"I believe people yearn for experiences now, not expensive items, and they want to be the first to see something, or at least in the first wave of people before a place gets too popular," Dr. Parcak said.

"People want to spend the night in the desert, or push themselves in long distance races or connect with local people. As a brand, INFINITI is a leader in the luxury car industry for consumers willing to take risks in all areas of their lives, travel included."

The Accessibility of Archaeology

Similar to INFINITI, Dr. Parcak believes archaeology and exploration should be accessible to the masses, via empowering technology. That's why she launched GlobalXplorer, an online platform that allows anyone with an internet connection to discover the next unknown tomb or potential looting pit.

The goal is to bring the wonder of archaeological discovery to all and for non-space archaeologists to know their contributions are valid and essential.

"I challenge convention by making archaeology accessible for everyone," Dr. Parcak said. "Right now, I think the world sees archaeology as too disconnected from their everyday lives."

"Frankly archaeologists are overwhelmed with work," she added. "We can't map or document the sites fast enough. We need help from citizen archaeologists. I want to empower as many people as possible to feel like they can play an important role in telling our shared human story."

The Impact of Exploration 

With technology giving people the means to explore different areas of the world, one gains an understanding of the patterns and trends developed on sites, across regions and even throughout entire ancient cultures.

"We obviously have a very long way to go, but if more people understood archaeology and history, we would stop and think more about the implications of the huge decisions we are making every day, especially world leaders," Dr. Parcak said.

"A government cannot protect all the cultural assets within the boundaries of their country without knowing where they are. Thus, step one is mapping sites and understanding the potential threats so they can prioritize which sites to safeguard or develop for tourism," she added.

Satellites play a huge role in helping archaeologists gain a better understanding of the landscapes around the sites where they work, and can help in the discovery of features on sites or even entire sites in cost-efficient ways.

Technological Precision at Work

Technological precision is important in many industries, including archaeology and automotive engineering. Dr. Parcak relies on it to pinpoint an exact area to map, which could take decades to survey otherwise.

"Many satellite sensors capture light reflected off the Earth's surface, recorded in the visible through infrared parts of the light spectrum," Dr. Parcak said.

"They then process it using off the shelf software, using differences in the vegetation, soil or water content in the imagery to make subtle to otherwise invisible features appear — from small walls or roads to relic river courses or monumental structures," she added.

More people are realizing the potential that exploration could have in today's world. As more sites are discovered, there's no telling what can be accomplished using lessons from previous civilizations.

"The ideas of resilience and creativity are as old as we are and archaeology can and should give us a lot more hope for where we might be headed," Dr. Parcak said. "There is a firehose of knowledge and I'm so here for it."