Who Actually Owns Space?

Space is a vast and open area that has just as much to explore as Earth’s oceans. With an entire novel landscape outside of Earth, there are much more resources to uncover and use. Endless possibilities could stem from the usage of space’s natural resources. This leads to the concept of space archaeology, defined “…as the study of “the material culture relevant to space exploration that is found on Earth and in outer space (i.e. exoatmospheric material) and that is clearly the result of human behavior,” (Walsh and Gorman 2021). General archaeology focuses on the past, and constantly questions who owns the past. However, with space archaeology, technically no one owns the entirety of space. Many countries, such as the USA, have just implanted their own morals and desires into the concept of space. For monetary gain, business enterprises, or for the accumulation of resources, numerous countries that partake in the race to space are always in effect. 

Space’s vastness inherently gives no ownership to any one person or country. Because much of space is unexplored, it cannot technically be claimed. However, countries and their people still insist space is for themselves alone. “It said, on the background of stars and stripes, ‘The Moon is ours. Don’t be landing your stanky rocket on the Moon’,” (Gorman 219). Even in space exploration, discriminations are evident. Though people are still prideful about claiming space, the credit is not given to those that actually contribute to the advancement of space exploration. For example, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three African-American women who contributed to making pivotal NASA space launch possible, largely go unnoticed due to their gender and skin color.

Figure 1. Katherine Jonson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan

“Our very presence on other celestial bodies, whether in human form or through robot avatars, changes them. They are altered physically and conceptually, becoming part of a human cultural landscape in a new way. We cannot land, sample, build settlements or mines and then whisk away as if nothing happened – our chemical and mechanical traces are now part of the planet, asteroid or moon,” (Gorman 225). Similar to how archaeological sites on Earth are formed by the numerous people who alter them and leave a footprint on them, human presence and effect in space will always be felt. Contributions to space archaeology are not made possible by one particular owner but by the combination of all those who have affected and used space for their benefit. Therefore, not one body or group owns space, but everyone who has affected it. 

Figure 2. A space archaeological site (Stevens 2017)


Gorman, A. (2020). Dr space junk vs the universe: Archaeology and the future. The MIT Press. 

Lem, P., & Rocchio, L. (n.d.). Space archaeology: In the realm of resolution. NASA. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/91071/space-archaeology-in-the-realm-of-resolution 

Walsh, J., & Gorman, A. (2021). A method for space archaeology research: The International Space Station Archaeological Project. Antiquity, 95(383), 1331-1343. doi:10.15184/aqy.2021.114

More readings

Gannon, M. I. (2022, April 1). Space archaeology takes off. Scientific American. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/space-archaeology-takes-off/


How the Space Race Affected Pop Culture

During the 1960s, America became highly invested in the space race. This obsession led to many cultural changes throughout the decade and beyond. Since the space race was a projection of the future, it changed pop culture dramatically. 

Movies were the first to change the view of space. “In 1968, one year before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon, the Stanley Kubrick film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ premiered,” the movie was about a space voyage to Jupiter to investigate a type of anomaly (Swapna: 2019). The movie was an outlook into what could come in the future. 2001: A Space Odyssey would build a trend of space movies for years to come. “The movie opened up a new market for science fiction blockbusters like Star Wars, Alien, and close encounters” (Mayer: 2018). Many movies show futuristic technology and themes that act out of reach in past societies. However, the new technology is becoming more and more like the ones shown in the old movies. The highly advanced light-speed technology called “warp speed” featured in the movie Star Trek and Star Wars was once called impossible. Still, scientists are looking to match this technology in today’s society. Hopefully, “one day we may be able to travel between stars, and the inspiration for that dream will be directly traceable back to Star Trek and Star Wars” (Swapna: 2019). The space race had a significant effect on the media and Hollywood during the space race, but its effects are still seen today. 

Figure 1. A picture from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey

Movies were not the only thing that was affected by the space race. The amusement scene drastically changed throughout the 60s and 70s. In the late 60s and 70s, Walt Disney made many changes to the theme park centered around space. One of the first attractions opened was Flight to the Moon, a simulated rocket launch. It captured the moments of pure imagination and fear. Another famous ride was the Astro Orbiter, which featured spinning arms around a column with planets as seats. It acted as the solar system. These rides attracted many people and changed these parks’ culture. Everything was changing to futuristic ideas and technology. “Space Mountain, Disney World’s first “mountain” attraction and first thrill ride, takes riders through space aboard rocket cars flying by stars, meteors, and more.” (Leibacher: 2019). The mountain is still one of the most popular attractions at Disney World today. Walt Disney changed amusement parks’ culture, and space themes took over during those two decades. 

Figure 2. Space Mountain when it first opened up.

Movies and attractions have had a significant impact on pop culture in recent decades and an everlasting impact on society today. The introduction of 2001: A Space Odyssey influenced the media to trend space exploration and establish new technologies that are still introduced today. Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland’s attractions impacted riders and viewers from decades ago to today. 


Krishna, Swapna. “The Many Ways Pop Culture Propels Spaceflight and Vice Versa.” PBS SoCal, January 26, 2021. https://www.pbssocal.org/shows/blue-sky-metropolis/the-many-ways-pop-culture-propels-spaceflight-and-vice-versa. 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. “How 2001: A Space Odyssey Has Influenced Pop Culture, 50 Years Later.” Vulture, April 4, 2018. https://www.vulture.com/2018/04/how-2001-a-space-odyssey-has-influenced-pop-culture.html. 

Herb Leibacher·April 3, 2019, Disney World VacationsDisney’s Animal KingdomDisney’s Hollywood StudiosEpcotMagic Kingdom, and Disney’s Animal KingdomVideos. “The History of Space in Disney World.” World Of Walt, April 3, 2019. https://worldofwalt.com/the-history-of-space-in-disney-world.html. 



ohc_admin. “The Space Race and Its Influence on American Design: The Atomic Age.” Ohio History Connection, June 21, 2022. https://www.ohiohistory.org/the-space-race-and-its-influence-on-american-design-the-atomic-age/. 

“Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration – NASA.” Accessed December 5, 2022. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/Benefits-Stemming-from-Space-Exploration-2013-TAGGED.pdf. 



The Seminole Tribe and Archaeology

Indigenous groups have been key components in our discussions about archaeology this semester. The majority of the artifacts we have discussed are from Indigenous cultures in North America. This makes sense because these artifacts are the most relevant to us given where we live. The artifacts help tell us stories about Native American groups by teaching us about their lifestyles and what is important to them. The majority of the Native American groups we have focused on in class have been centered in the North East and the Midwest. We’ve also discussed groups in the South West region of the United States. We have not really talked about groups in the South East region. This may be due to Vassar’s location and the relevance of North Eastern archaeology to us, nevertheless, Indigenous groups from the South East and the artifacts they created are just as important to this country’s history as those of the North East. One prominent Native American group from the South East was the Seminole Tribe who lived in what is today Florida.

A large portion of the history of the Seminole Tribe is explained by the written history of the European settlers because, “Very few Seminole towns have ever been excavated in Florida” (Keen 2004). This the makes the artifacts that are found so much more important. These artifacts are more likely to be free of bias, and if interpreted correctly they can give a more accurate history of the Seminole Tribe than the written history composed by the biased European settlers. For example, in Keen’s article she describes the excavation of Paynes Town, a Seminole Town near Gainesville Florida. During this excavation they found that there was a clear mixing of Seminole and European cultures, “in a unique combination of the two material cultures, was a piece of manufactured brass sheet metal that had been molded into an arrowhead to meet Seminole needs” (Keen 2004). This shows that the Seminoles had a good enough relationship to trade with Europeans. It can be inferred that the Seminoles may have traded for specific materials that could have benefitted them in the crafting of their hunting tools. There is much that can be learned by studying artifacts such as these that cannot be learned by written history.

Members of the Paynes Town excavation team working on a test hole.

We can learn things about the Seminole Tribe by looking at their other artifacts too. One such artifact is the Turtle Rattler. The Turtle Rattler was “used in some Seminole ceremonies. This kind of rattle has been used by many different groups of Native Americans and holds great meaning as a symbol of independence” (Florida Seminole Traditions: 3) Artifacts like these show a degree of shared tradition between Native American groups. It also shows what things the Seminole Tribe value, that being independence. This is more than what a biased written history produced by the Europeans could tell you.

Seminole Turtle Rattler used in ceremonies.

Further Readings:


The Fight to Bring Seminole Ancestors Home


“Florida Seminole Traditions.” Orange County Regional History Center, n.d. https://www.thehistorycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/March2020-History-at-Home-NativeAmericans2.pdf.

Keen, Cathy. “Excavation Finds Clues of Cultural Blending in Seminole Indian Life.” Florida Museum, May 14, 2019. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/excavation-finds-clues-of-cultural-blending-in-seminole-indian-life/.

“Seminole Indian Turtle Rattle [Height/Length (in)= 11.5, Width (i…” iCollector.com Online Auctions. Accessed December 4, 2022. https://www.icollector.com/Seminole-Indian-Turtle-Rattle-Height-Length-in-11-5-Width-i_i13082026.

In Peru, Archaeology Students Rediscovered Lost Pre-Hispanic Mural in Excellent Condition

In November 2022, in a village in Lambayeque in northern Peru, Swiss archaeologist Sâm Ghavami, helped by Peruvian students, discovered a pre-Hispanic fresco. Surprisingly, the wall painting was already known by the archaeological community since it was first visible on a series of black and white photographs (Figure 1) taken by German ethnologist Hans Heinrich Brüning in 1916 (Schaedel 1978 and Farrant 2022). However, these pictures, only rediscovered in 1976, did not get the archaeologists’ attention because they believed that the site had already been destroyed (Whiddington 2022)… until Ghavami decided to excavate it after reading an article containing the black and white pictures.

Figure 1: Black and white photograph of the Huaca Pintada mural from Brüning (1916) (Archaeology)

The mural is part of the Huaca Pintada temple, which was built by the Moche civilization that flourished between the 1st and 8th centuries. It depicts mythological scenes, in particular a bird-like god with Moche warriors, and may represent the Moche “worldview”, organized around veneration of the ancestors, of nature, and of the Moon (Whiddington 2022). In fact, the Moon goddess was the most powerful deity for the Moche since she could appear at night and during the day, and thus was seen as even more powerful than the Sun (Dreffs 2020).

Moreover, as Sâm Ghavami said: “It’s an exceptional discovery because it is rare to unearth wall paintings of such quality in pre-Colombian archeology” (Farrant 2022). In fact, the mural is exceptionally well-preserved: the blue, brown, red, white and yellow paint colors are still visible, even after 1000 years (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Visible colors on the mural (2022) (AFP)

This discovery is exciting because it has a deeper meaning. It is indicative of the development of an ancient Peruvian cultural phenomenon (Farrant 2022). In fact, on top of the Moche, we can also see elements of another pre-Incan culture, the Lambayeque (who lived in northern Peru between 900 and 1350 AD). Ghavami aims to further decrypt the message conveyed by the wall as part of his research, and hopes to be able to understand the social, political and cultural changes that affected the region and its societies (Whiddington 2022). As he said, perhaps it “could be interpreted as a metaphorical image of the political and religious order of the region’s ancient inhabitants” (Farrant 2022). This approach echoes the “traditionalist archaeological explanations of change in the past” approach that focuses on the notions of diffusion and migration. This is the idea that “changes in one group must have been caused either by the influence or influx of a neighboring and superior group” (Renfrew 2018). However, it will surely be difficult to try to get information about the relationship between pre-Incan societies (Moche, Lambayeque…) from this mythological painting.

Further Reading:




1) Farrant, Theo. December 02, 2022. “Archaeology students uncover long-lost pre-Hispanic mural in Peru.” Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/culture/2022/12/02/archaeology-students-uncover-long-lost-pre-hispanic-mural-in-peru

2) Whiddington, Richard. December 02, 2022. “A Pre-Hispanic Mural Depicting Moche Warriors Has Been Rediscovered in Northern Peru After Being Lost for More Than a Century.” Artnet. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/archaeologists-uncover-ceremonial-water-structures-machu-picchu-2053699

3) Dreffs, Melissa. October 26, 2020. “Moche Civilization: Northern Peru’s Ancient Artisans.” Peru for Less. https://www.peruforless.com/blog/moche-civilization/

4) Schaedel, Richard. February 1978. “The Huaca Pintada of Illimo.” Archaeology. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41726855#metadata_info_tab_contents

5) Renfrew, Colin & Bahn, Paul. November 26, 2018. Archaeology Essentials: Theories, Methods, and Practice. Chapter 10:277. Thames & Hudson, 4th edition.

The Effects of Climate Change on Archeology

Humans have been influencing climate change on a global scale since the late 19th century, but it has only recently become a major concern to the general population. That being said, even with drastic efforts being made to counteract global warming, data displayed by PNAS.org predicts that global temperatures will continue to rise from +2.6 to + 4.8 °C by the end of the 21st century. Not only does this affect the narratives of the present, however, but new discoveries also reveal that the climate change crisis is affecting the narratives of the past.

Million Metric Tons of Carbon in the atmosphere vs. year. Graph by Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres 2017Throughout the planet, temperatures are oscillating at unnatural paces. Two results from these fluctuations are flash floods and droughts in environments unprepared for such disasters. Unfortunately, archeology is heavily affected by these events: an example being the Mississippi River basin. Due to heavy flooding occurring two and a half years ago along with a present-day drought, artifacts in the Mississippi River basin are being greatly disturbed. This disturbance destroys context vital for archeologists to make proper assumptions about the past. ScientificAmerican.com quotes, “Archaeological sites do best either staying underwater water or staying on dry ground. Going back and forth is not good” (Charles McGimsey, the Louisiana state archaeologist).

Ancient shipwreck uncovered due to flooding in Mississippi River basin 

Nevertheless, data discovered through archeology may be the key to preserving archeology in the future. Though humans have only been affecting climate change for the past 250 years, humans have always been experiencing climate change. It is through archeological records that scientists can see how humans have dealt with changes in the climate in the past and try to apply that data to the present efforts to stop day global warming. Climate modelers and earth scientists are teaming up with archaeologists using paleoclimate and archaeological records to help evaluate the coming climate dangers to develop a sustainable answer

Climate change is a more pressing issue now than it ever has been. For the first time in history, both humanity’s past and future are at risk. The successful efforts made by archaeologists today to help counteract global warming beautifully display the importance of preserving the past. If climate change is left unchecked, lessons learned in the past may be forever lost.


Burke, Ariane. “The Archaeology of Climate Change: The Case for Cultural Diversity | PNAS.” PNAS , https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2108537118.

Cusick, Daniel. “Climate Change Is Adding Urgency to Archaeology.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 31 Oct. 2022, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-is-adding-urgency-to-archaeology/.

“North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.” Predicting Effects of Climate Change on Archaeological Sites | NC Archaeology, https://archaeology.ncdcr.gov/programs/research/climate-change/predicting-effects.


Further Reading:

“Climate Change (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 5 Oct. 2021, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/index.htm.

“Using Archeology to Better Understand Climate Change.” UdeMNouvelles, 12 May 2022, https://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2021/07/20/using-archeology-to-better-understand-climate-change/.

The Landsat Program and Archaeological Imaging

Satellites, from an archaeological perspective, can be viewed as much more than just a future (or present-day) artifact. With the launch of Landsat, NASA revolutionized imaging on earth, and has allowed for the discovery of new archaeological sites, allowing archaeologists to preserve more of the past. The idea of imaging earth from space came about after the launch of Surveyor 1 and the Lunar Orbital platforms. These satellites took extremely details pictures of the surface of the moon and other planets, but they were not made for looking at earth. (Aldenderfer, 2019). Soon after, imaging of earth from space became popular, starting with the United States Department of Defense, who kept most of the images classified. With the launch of the Landsat Program, advance images of earth are now in public domain, able to be used by Archaeologists eager to study the hidden sites of the earth. (Giardino, 2010)

Figure 1: Landsat satellite in orbit. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/landsat/overview/index.html

            In the 1980s, Archaeology saw an increased use of these satellites for learning about sites on earth. In 1984, Boston University sponsored a conference on satellite imaging and archaeology as a response to the growth in usage of these satellite images. (Sever and Wiseman, 1989). The conclusions of the conference were widely agreed upon, and stipulated that these images should be used in learning about the relationship between environment and society, ancient and present, and should be focused especially in places with endangered resources. (Giardino, 2010).

One example of the use of the Landsat program occurred in Guatemala, which aimed to understand the Ancient Maya relationship to the rainforests of Northern Guatemala. The satellite images revealed that swamps made up to 40% of the land space in the rainforest, and they changed with the seasons. It also revealed different vegetation, as well as other small changes that occurred that could elucidate the mystery of what wiped out the Maya. Through the satellites, not only is environmental information found, but archaeological sites can be discovered. Through this project, 70 new Archaeological sites were discovered. (Sever and Irwin, 2003)

.         Figure 2: Satelite image of Maya ruins. Retrieved from https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/6293/maya-ruins

           The rainforest is incredibly dense, an area that is hard to study without some form of aerial imaging, though the use of these satellites, so much more can be discovered. Satellite images reveal vegetational change, differing elevations on which sites are located, and the courses of water features. The use of satellites has made imaging much more cost-efficient and accessible. (Sever and Irwin, 2003)


Works Referenced

Sever, Thomas L., and Daniel E. Irwin. “LANDSCAPE ARCHAEOLOGY: Remote-Sensing Investigation of the Ancient Maya in the Peten Rainforest of Northern Guatemala.” Ancient Mesoamerica 14, no. 1 (2003): 113–22. doi:10.1017/S0956536103141041.

Wiseman, James R. “Archaeology Today: From the Classroom to the Field and Elsewhere.” American Journal of Archaeology 93, no. 3 (1989): 437–44. https://doi.org/10.2307/505593.

Giardino, Marco J. “A History of NASA Remote Sensing Contributions to Archaeology.” Journal of Archaeological Science 38, no. 9 (September 2011): 2003–9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2010.09.017.

Aldenderfer, Mark S. 2019. “What Did the Moon Landing Do for Archaeology?” Anthropology News 60 (5). https://doi.org/10.1111/an.1276.


Further Reading:




The Importance of Aboriginal Archaeology


In class this week, we learned about Alice Gorman’s work with space archaeology, but also her earlier career as a cultural heritage consultant for Aboriginal archaeology. This field of archaeology is important for understanding the majority of past human activity on the continent. It is also incredibly important to protect Aboriginal artifacts and heritage to preserve Aboriginal heritage in the face of colonial destruction.

Australia’s oldest known archaeological site is the Madjedbebe rock shelter. The site is so old that radiocarbon dating is unreliable for many of the artifacts, which include stone tools, seashells, and supplies for making rock art. The tools include stone spear tips and axes. (Britannica). In 2012, researchers applied the technique of optically stimulated luminescence to date some artifacts as 65,000 years old (Odyssey Traveller). In 2017, further application of the technique found that they could even be up to 80,000 years old (Britannica). This discovery shows that humans were on the Australian continent much earlier than Archaeologists had thought.

Some of the rock art at Madjedbebe possibly depicting European colonization.

However, the Madjedbebe rock shelter isn’t just important for its oldest artifacts. The site’s use spans a long time. Rock art in the shelter also seems to depict European colonization (Odyssey Traveller). This makes the site important for the study of many different time periods, and it is a prominent site in Australian archaeology for this reason.

The rock art depicting European colonizers also serves as a reminder that archaeology is never separate from the violent colonization that it may study. The capitalism and extractivism of colonial occupation is often directly destructive to Aboriginal archaeology and heritage. In 2020, the Rio Tinto mining company destroyed the Juukan 1 and Juukan 2 rock shelter sites, all for the expansion of its iron mine (Dvorsky 2020). Protections for important sites like this are often weak, and many of them are not even officially designated as heritage sites. Mining companies like Rio Tinto have the power to commit this destruction completely legally (Dvorsky 2020). If Aboriginal heritage is to be protected, Australian laws must change to favor these sites over the interests of the mining industry.

Protestors rebuke Rio Tinto’s destruction of the two Aboriginal rock shelters.

This injustice is concerning to archaeologists, but archaeology has its own problems regarding the treatment of Aboriginal heritage. While archaeology can be a powerful tool for preserving and elevating the importance of this heritage, archaeologists also have a problematic historical tendency to take control over artifacts, remains, and sites. This is not usually destructive, but it is still harming the heritage of people who are alive and have to be included in archaeology. Without working in collaboration with Aboriginal interests, archaeologists risk contributing to these same colonial systems. Indigenous people have historically been used as informants in Australian archaeology since the 1930s (Wilson 2014), but consulting them for information and sharing in the benefit of the work are two different things. It is imperative that Australian archaeologists emphasize ethics and repatriation, and always use their skills to benefit indigenous people rather than harm them.



Dvorsky, George. “Mining Company Blows Up 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site, Expresses No Regrets.” Gizmodo, May 28, 2020. https://www.odysseytraveller.com/articles/madjedbebe-archaeological-site-northern-territory/.

“Madjedbebe Archaeological Site, Northern Territory.” Odyssey Traveller, March 4, 2021. https://www.odysseytraveller.com/articles/madjedbebe-archaeological-site-northern-territory/.

“Madjedbebe.” Britannica, accessed December 4, 2022. https://www.odysseytraveller.com/articles/madjedbebe-archaeological-site-northern-territory/.

Wilson, Christopher. “Indigenous Archaeologies: Australian Perspective.” Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Springer, New York, NY. 2014. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_1012/.




Code of Ethics

Ancient Footprints: Could Human Life Existed in North America Far Before we Thought?


In the past couple of years, a team of scientists have found what is now the oldest known set of human footprints in North America within White Sands National Park. These footprints are from 21,000 to 23,000 years old. In order to date this, scientists used radio carbon dating on seeds found embedded in the prints. 

Based on the stratigraphy of the land, the scientists were able to tell what was happening around and during the time the prints were made. They have found multiple different “tracks” which each house a unique set of prints. Based on their studies, they have found that the area had been under the surface of a lake for the majority of the last 30,000 years, ending with the lake drying up around 10,000 years ago. The footprints were made during a time of drought, when the waterline receded. When the drought ended, the lake level rose and began covering the footprints with layers of silt which preserved them. Footprints there are now revealed through natural means, such as sand blowing and revealing them. Others are specifically searched for by scientists and meticulously excavated.

This site shows the stratigraphy of the land and multiple sets of footprints made thousands of years apart, with the oldest being the furthest down.

When studying the tracks, the scientists sought to determine the age of the individuals who had made them. Most of them turned out to be the footprints of teenagers and children. From the relative lack of adult footprints, the scientists think that it was likely due to the adults doing the skilled work, while teens did brunt work and children played.

Here is a National Geographic artist’s depiction of what the scene by the lake would have looked like, with playing children taking the forefront.

Beyond what we can learn about the lives of the people who made the prints, these footprints predate when scientists believed humans arrived in North America. This site gives more evidence to the argument that there was human life in North America far earlier than the estimated 13,000 years ago.

White Sands is a place that multiple surrounding Native tribes feel a connection to. These footprints have now become a beautiful way for them to connect with their ancestors. These tribes are currently working to preserve the footprints so humans far in the future can continue to see the marks of humans far in the past.


Bennett, Sukee. “Human Tracks May Be Earliest Evidence of People in North America.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, June 8, 2022. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/human-ice-age-footprints-white-sands-national-park/.

“The Discovery of Ancient Human Footprints in White Sands National Park and Their Link to Abrupt Climate Change: U.S. Geological Survey.” The discovery of ancient human footprints in White Sands National Park and their link to abrupt climate change | U.S. Geological Survey. Accessed December 4, 2022. https://www.usgs.gov/programs/climate-research-and-development-program/news/discovery-ancient-human-footprints-white.

Wei-Haas, Maya. “Stunning Footprints Push Back Human Arrival in Americas by Thousands of Years.” History. National Geographic, September 24, 2021. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/fossil-footprints-challenge-theory-when-people-first-arrived-americas.

Further Links:

Oldest European footprints:
What Scientists can learn from a set of footprints:

The Influence of Space Archaeology and Satellites on Our Understanding of the Past

There are currently more than 40,000 detected objects in space, and 5,000 of those objects are satellites. Archaeologists rely on satellites, which help to communicate the positions of sites with historical or cultural relevance. This is especially clear in the case of Sarah Parcak, space archeologist and Egyptologist, who defines space archaeology as using “any form of air or space-based data” to look for ancient features or sites (Marchant 2019). 

Through the use of satellite imagery, Parcak and her team have discovered “more than 3,000 ancient settlements, more than a dozen pyramids and over a thousand lost tombs” in Egypt (Tucker 2016). One of these discoveries was the ancient city of Tanis, the former capital of Egypt. After centuries, Tanis was eventually lost under a large build up of silt and mostly forgotten. This did not stop Parcak from trying to find it, however. Because the city is still mostly buried under the desert (Figure 1), it would take hundreds of years to excavate the site using conventional practices. Instead, Parcak combined two satellite images to unveil (Figure 2) the “layout of the largest, most continuously occupied capital city in ancient Egypt” with visible suburbs, streets, and houses (Marchant 2019). 

Figure 1: Tanis, Egypt from ground level. Photograph by Sarah Parcak.

Figure 2: Satellite image of the archaeological site in Tanis, Egypt. Photograph by DigitalGlobe/Maxar via Getty Images.

Space archaeology and satellite imagery have not only helped uncover different ancient cities like Tanis, they have helped deepen our understanding of things that have already been revealed and studied in the archaeological record. Archaeologists, for example, have argued whether ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom ended largely for social, political, and economic reasons or because of a severe drought. Parcak used satellite images of ground survey work and the Nile Delta to show a decrease in the number of the Old Kingdom’s settlements from that time period to the following one. Smaller settlements were more abandoned than larger settlements, which were generally maintained. Parcak concluded that the images provided more evidence of there having been a “a serious drought that lasted for a lengthy period of time and played a more major role in the decline than previously assumed” (Corbyn 2019). Therefore, satellites also help to advance existing perceptions of archaeological findings. 

According to Parcak, space archaeology allows people to see “a world without borders, full of possibility, past, present and future” (Marchant 2019). It allows people to analyze and understand features that relate to the history of humanity that are not visible from the ground. With satellite imagery, archaeologists are able to uncover truths about the past that have never been considered or fully understood, shining a light on the ever changing nature of history and our understanding of it. 


Further Reading:




Corbyn, Zoe. July 27, 2019. “Sarah Parcak: ‘Imagine being able to zoom in from space to see a pottery shard!’” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/27/sarah-parcak-interview-arcaeology-from-space-satellite-imaging-globalxplorer-project-ancient-egypt

Marchant, Jo. June 26, 2019. “Adventures of a space archaeologist.” Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01972-3.

Tucker, Abigail. December 2016. “Space Archaeologist Sarah Parcak Uses Satellites to Uncover Ancient Egyptian Ruins.” Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/space-archaeologist-sarah-parcak-winner-smithsonians-history-ingenuity-award-180961120/. 

Beyond Space and Defense: The Indigenous Archaeology of the Woomera Range

The Woomera Range Complex located in the northwest region of southern Australia was a hub of space and defense testing and development for the nation of Australia beginning in the late 1940s. The Complex, consisting of the Woomera Prohibited area and the Woomera Restricted Airspace, remains an area of defense related development for the Australian government, and serves as a location for weapons testing, the mining and development of explosive and hazardous materials, and special forces preparation (Royal Australian Air Force). However, the range itself was the location of significant human development before it was utilized by the commonwealth. The range served as a home for countless Indigenous Australian people of different groups, and contains sites of significance to many that still exist in Australia to this day. The history of the Woomera range goes back thousands of years, and the presence of Indigenous Australians on its grounds cannot be ignored. 

Figure 1. Footprint of the Woomera Prohibited Area. Retrieved from Bush Heritage Australia.

The land of the Woomera Protected area includes the lands of six Indigenous Australian groups. A majority of this land (30%) belonged to the Maralinga Tjarutja and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yunkunytjatjara, and the remainder was spread between the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara, Arabana, Gawler Ranges, and Kokatha people (Department of Defence). The land of the Kokatha Native Title is home to a number of Indigenous archaeological sites, including multiple in the Lake Hart region. Archaeologists discovered a series of fourteen stone structures which were likely used for housing or hunting by the Kokatha people. A nearby site known as Wild Dog Creek is home to a series of rock carvings produced in the Panaramitee style, which involved breaking away smaller pieces of the rock with sharp man-made tools. These carvings depict life for the Kokatha people and include images of human footprints, shelters, kangaroos, and many species of birds (Trask, 2022). Some of these portrayals match the recreations of a species known as Genyornis newtoni – a giant bird species ranging from two to two and a half meters tall that went extinct approximately 50,000 years ago (Musser, 2022). While the dating of features and artifacts within the Woomera rage can be difficult due to the harsh weather and wide open nature of the climate, these depictions have added weight to estimates that the Kokatha people inhabited the lands of the range as far back as 50,000 years ago (Trask, 2022). 

Figure 2. Depiction of Panaramitee carvings at Wild Dog Creek. Retrieved from SBS News.

The deep ties that Indigenous people have to the Woomera Range are represented in the name of the complex itself. The word Woomera pays homage to an Indigenous Australian spear thrower called the Woomera (Royal Australian Air Force). The weapon itself displayed extreme accuracy and was one of the most prominent technological advancements of the time period. The research and development in space and defense technologies completed by the Australian Commonwealth within the Woomera Range Complex are mirrored in the advancements of the Indigenous Australian peoples that inhabited the lands previously, and ignoring their accomplishments when discussing the Woomera range discounts a significant portion of the region’s history.

Figure 3. Woomera (Spear-Thrower). Retrieved from Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa.



Department of Defense, Commonwealth of Australia. “History of the Woomera Prohibited Area: Sectors.” Defence. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence. Accessed December 4, 2022. https://www.defence.gov.au/bases-locations/sa/woomera/about.  

Royal Australian Air Force. “Woomera Range Complex.” Woomera Range Complex | Air Force. Accessed December 4, 2022. https://www.airforce.gov.au/about-us/bases/woomera-range-complex. 

Unknown. Woomera (Spear-Thrower). n.d. Hardwood, grass tree resin, fibre, Overall: 155mm (width), 650mm (length), 25mm (depth). <a href=”https://www.tepapa.govt.nz”>Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa</a>; Collection: History; Gift of Alexander Turnbull, 1913. https://jstor.org/stable/community.27031922.

Trask, Steven. “The Significance of These Very Rare Aboriginal Shelters Has Been Revealed.” SBS News, June 23, 2022. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/the-significance-of-these-very-rare-aboriginal-shelters-has-been-revealed/634tt22qt. 

Musser, Anne. “Genyornis Newtoni.” The Australian Museum, April 4, 2022. https://australian.museum/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/genyornis-newtoni/. 

Taylor, Kate. “Life in the Woomera Prohibited Area.” Bush Heritage Australia, December 3, 2020. https://www.bushheritage.org.au/blog/when-weird-becomes-normal.