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Bu Researchers Investigate World's Oldest Human Footprints With Software Designed to Decode Crime Scenes


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Digital analysis of some of the world's oldest known footprints.

Researchers at Bournemouth University have developed a software technique to help them analyze the world's oldest known footprints.

Credit: Bournemouth University (United Kingdom)

Bournemouth University (BU) researchers have developed a software technique to uncover "lost" tracks at the world's oldest human footprint site in Laetoli, Tanzania.

The software revealed new information about the shape of the tracks and found hints of a previously undiscovered fourth track-maker at the site.

The software was originally developed by BU's Matthew Bennett and Marcin Budka in 2015 for forensic footprint analysis. Their research is focused on developing techniques to enable modern footwear evidence to be captured in three dimensions and digitally analyzed to improve crime scene investigations.

The researchers repurposed the software to uncover ancient footprints at Laetoli, which reveal much about the individuals who made them, such as their body mass, height, and walking speed.

"The techniques we have been developing for use at modern crime scenes can also reveal something new about these ancient track sites," Bennett says.

BU researchers also are developing digital methods for the analysis of modern footprint evidence. "As well as making new discoveries about our early ancestors, we can apply this science to help modern society combat crime," the researchers say.

From Bournemouth University (United Kingdom)
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