Members of the public could play their part in discovering remains dating back three million years after archaeologists at Bradford University received a £1.9 million cash boost.
The funding, awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to the university team, will also pay to develop a 3D package of scanning of artefacts.
Currently, it takes months to piece artefacts together, but the package will cut that process to days and could eventually be used by the Home Office at scenes of crime to piece together broken items and find fingerprints.
The money will also pay for a team of selected archaeologists to head to Koobi Fora in Kenya to take aerial shots of the ground and Lake Turkana.
Those shots will then be uploaded to a website created by the Citizen Science Alliance so people can log on and see if they can discover any remains or finds.
Areas of interest will then be highlighted for archaeologists to study and any finds on the ground will be credited in part to the member of public who flagged the site up.
The team will be led by Dr Randolph Donahue, Dr Andrew Wilson, and Dr Adrian Evans from the university, with the university’s Professor Hassan Ugail and Dr Nick Ashton, of the British Museum.
Work on the 3D packaging will start in October and the funding will last for four years.
Dr Evans said: “The remit of the grant is to digitally transform and bring technology to change the way research is done. We want to develop the 3D technology so we can rapidly scan and digitally reconstruct artefacts which currently takes months.
“The package will be created using existing technology.
“In Kenya, we will be looking at fragmented remains scattered around, such as bits of bone from human ancestors. We are going to take high-resolution aerial shots like Google Maps, and put them in an environment online where anybody can look at them and find artefacts within it.
“If we find a specimen as a result of someone spotting something on their desktop, they will be involved with the naming of it.”
The group will head to Kenya next summer. “We have chosen Kenya because we expect to find things going back up to three million years ago,” Dr Evans said.
“Some members of the public could be responsible for finding new remains which influences our understanding of our own evolution. It is really exciting.”