Archaeologists have used aerial photographs to map archaeological sites since the 1920s, while the use of infrared photography started in the 1960s, and satellite imagery was first used in the 1970s.
Archaeologists gave the military the idea to use aerial photographs for spying and field survey. We are fortunate that the spatial and spectral resolutions of the imagery available to us are so broadly useful for archaeology.
I give my grandfather, Dr Harold Young, a forestry Professor at the University of Maine, full credit for my career path. He pioneered the use of aerial photography in forestry in the 1950s, and we think he worked as a spy for the CIA during the Cold War, mapping Russian installations.
If you find a series of linear shapes in the same alignment as known archaeological features, and they match excavated examples, you still need to excavate to confirm, but you can be fairly sure that the imagery is accurate.
Before doing fieldwork in Middle Egypt, I analyzed satellite imagery to determine exactly where I wanted to go. Within three weeks, I found about 70 sites. If I had approached this as a traditional foot survey, it would have taken me three and a half years.
It's absolutely critical, you know, to train young men and women not just to find sites, but also to protect sites, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring. There's been significant site-looting in Egypt and elsewhere across the Middle East.
We've found that patterns of site looting have increased between 500 and 1000 percent since the start of the Arab Spring. Now this is a problem as old as human beings. People were looting tombs 5,000 years ago in Egypt as soon as people were buried, but the problem is only getting worse and worse.
The only technology that can 'see' beneath the ground is radar imagery. But satellite imagery also allows scientists to map short- and long-term changes to the Earth's surface. Buried archaeological remains affect the overlying vegetation, soils and even water in different ways, depending on the landscapes you're examining.
I keep being surprised by the amount of archaeological sites and features that are left to find all over the world.
We have so many issues with overpopulation and urbanization and site looting. And this isn't just Egypt. This is everywhere in the world, even in America. So we only have a limited amount of time left before many archaeological sites all over the world are destroyed.
You think looting is bad in Egypt, look at Peru, India, China. I've been told in China there are over a quarter-million archaeological sites, and most have been looted. This is a global problem of massive proportions, and we don't know the scale.
It's an important tool to focus where we're excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger, and that's what the satellites allow us to do.
We emphasise the features on satellite maps by adding colours to farmland, urban structures, archaeological sites, vegetation and water.
We only have a limited amount of time left before many archaeological sites all over the world are destroyed. So we have to be really selective about where we dig.
What if Hiram Bingham had the technology to find hundreds of other archaeological sites at the same time and create entire 3-D maps of the ancient landscape accurate to within a few inches?
The most exciting part of what I do is understanding the scale of what we don't know. There are just countless archaeological sites all over the world, and one of the most important and best ways of finding them is using digital technology.
I can't tell you the number of times I've been walking over an archaeological site. And you can't see anything on the ground, and pull back hundreds of miles in space, and all of a sudden you can see streets and roads and houses and even pyramids.
The majority of the research I do is archaeological research, but to me, as a professor, the most important thing is to encourage and mentor students.
My dream is to map every archaeological site in the world because, if we can do that, then we have this massive global data base that all sorts of global heritage organizations and heritage organizations within countries can use, and they can use that information to protect what's there.
There's even an aircraft sensor system that sends down hundreds of thousands of pulses of light measured at different return rates. It allows you to literally strip away vegetation and see entire cities beneath the rain forest canopy. This is the unbelievable future of archaeology.