"The cradle of mankind"
Oldupai Gorge (originally misnamed Olduvai) is the most famous archaeological location in East Africa, and a popular stopover point for travellers coming from Serengeti or Ngorongoro.
At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 millions years old and represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world. Three separate tracks of a small-brained upright walking early hominid. Australopithecus afarensis, a creature about 1.2 to 1.4 meters high, were found. Imprints of these are displayed in the Oldupai museum.
More advanced descendants of Laetoli's hominids were found further north, buried in the layers of the 100 meters deep Oldupai Gorge. Excavations, mainly by the archaeologist Louis and Mary Leakey, yielded four different kinds of hominid, showing a gradual increases in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools. The first skull of Zinjanthropus, commonly known as 'Nutcracker Man' who lived about 1.75 millions years ago, was found here. The most important find include Home habilis, Zinjathropus and the Laetoli footprints.
The excavation sites have been preserved for public viewing and work continues during the dry seasons, coordinated by the Department of Antiquities. One may visit Oldupai at all times of the year. It is necessary to have official guide to visit the excavations. At the top of the Gorge there is small museum, a sheltered area used for lectures and talks, toilets and a cultural boma. Local Maasai souvenirs are also available.
Thus, Oldupai and Laetoli makes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area an important place in the world for the study of human origins and human evolution.
Locality, Size and Elevation
Olduvai Gorge is located inside of Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the eastern Serengeti plains. Its coordinates are S02o59'46.2“ (South) and E35o21'8.5” (East).
The gorge is approximately 48 kms long.
The average elevation throughout the gorge is 1448 metres
Below are the various options we recommend for your stay at Arusha
Any Ngorongoro or Serengeti accommodation is suitable for a visit to Olduvai gorge.
Where and what to see
Some 30,000 years ago, splitting of the earth's surface by violent geological activity and millennia of erosion by seasonally flowing streams incised the nearly 250 foot (90m) canyon known as Olduvai Gorge. These natural forces exposed a remarkably rich geological chronicle of human ancestry and the evolution of the Serengeti ecosystem. It was here that Mary and Louis Leakey unearthed the first well-dated artifacts and fossils of some of our earliest human ancestors after over 30 years of painstaking work. These include the famous Zinjanthropus (Australopithecus boisei) skull, homo habills, the presumed maker of the numerous early stone tools in the 1.8 to 1.6 million year-old deposits, and homo erectus, the larger bodied, larger brained hominin that preceded the earliest modern humans (Homo sapiens).
Oldupai (Olduvai) Museum
The Olduvai Gorge Museum and Visitors Center offer numerous educational exhibits, including fossils and artifacts of our human ancestors and skeletons of many extinct animals who shared their world. There are also informative lectures, special guided archaeological sites tours, native handcrafts and a well-stocked bookshop. See and learn about our collective human origins when we were once all Africans.
See and touch a huge cast of actual footprints made by our early human ancestors (hominins ) known as “Lucy” Australopithecus afarensis. The prints of three hominins were miraculously preserved in muddy ash deposited by volcanic eruptions and hardened by the sun some 3.6 million years ago. Made by feet little different than our own, they proved conclusively that these creatures stood and walked upright (bipedally) with a human-like stride a million years before the invention of stone tools and the initial growth in hominin brain size. It's undoubtedly one of the most astounding and important scientific discoveries of our time. A complete room of the Olduvai Museum devoted to the hominin footprint trail.