The Tomb Raider games may have whet your appetite for all things ancient but if you really want to indulge your inner archaeologist, put down your game controller and find out what the real experts have to say about this exciting field of study.
From the digital preservation of vulnerable heritage sites to the discovery of ancient sites through satellite imagery, these five TED talks on archaeology and cultural heritage offer unique insights into how 21st century archaeology and heritage preservation are being conducted.
1) Sarah Parcak: Hunting For Peru’s Lost Civilizations – With Satellites
TED Fellow and “Space Archaeologist” Sarah Parcak talks about GlobalXplorer, a citizen science platform that relies on an ever-growing team of volunteers to scour high-resolution satellite photos for signs of looting or undiscovered archaeological sites.
As Parcak explains, this innovative tool is currently being used to monitor and map possible sites in Peru but will be used to monitor other archaeological hotspots across the Americas, Middle East, and elsewhere in the near future.
2) Sarah Parcak: Help Discover Ancient Ruins – Before It’s Too Late
Another talk from the self-styled space archaeologist. This time, Professor Parcak talks about looting, the destruction of archaeological sites worldwide, her mission to democratise the process of archaeological discovery, and how she hopes GlobalXplorer and its army of volunteers will help find and protect the world’s hidden heritage.
3) Chance Coughenour: How Your Pictures Can Help Reclaim Lost History
Did you know that your holiday photos could be used to recreate destroyed monuments and artefacts? Digital archaeologist Chance Coughenour explains how crowd-sourced photos and photogrammetry can be used to create 3D models of sites and antiquities lost to conflict and natural disaster.
4) Gregory Heyworth: How I’m Discovering the Secrets of Ancient Texts
Medievalist and textual scientist Gregory Heyworth explains how multi-spectral imaging technology can be used to restore damaged or illegible manuscripts and uncover long-lost texts, sharing personal anecdotes and examples of how this high-tech technique can shine a light on our lost history.
You can learn more about Heyworth’s work and his team’s fascinating discoveries over on The Lazarus Project.
5) Gus Casely-Hayford: The Powerful Stories That Shaped Africa
And, lastly, cultural historian Gus Casely-Hayford shines some light on some of Africa’s ancient leaders and kingdoms, highlighting how colonial powers sought to rob the continent of its history and cultural achievements and how Africa’s cultural heritage is still under threat to this day.
Over the course of his presentation, Casely-Hayford touches upon Ansar Dine’s systematic campaign to destroy Mali’s religious monuments, the architecture and trade networks of Great Zimbabwe, and the medieval kingdoms of West Africa .
If you’d like to learn more about Africa’s pre-colonial past, I highly recommend the BBC documentary series, The Forgotten Kingdoms of Africa, which was presented by Casely-Hayford. You can purchase both seasons over on Amazon and Amazon UK.
If you’re looking for more TED talks on archaeology, anthropology, and cultural heritage preservation, check out the original list, “5 TED Talks on Archaeology and Cultural Heritage”.
TED is a non-profit platform devoted to spreading ideas to help “change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world”. Visitors to the TED website will have free access to hundreds of videos and articles on a wide range of subjects, including anthropology, the environment, and even gaming. Even if the five videos listed here don’t appeal to you, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest over on the TED website.