Olduvai Gorge is the very definition of an archaeologists dream. But, even if you’re not officially in the archaeology profession (we mean, even fans of Indiana Jones will count for this one), Tanzania’s “cradle of mankind” – as it’s often referred to – is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world. A quick trip to this steep sided ravine and the fascination of a time that once was is bound to rub off on you. So, start channeling your inner Lara Croft because things are about to get very Tomb Raider-esque.
Established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the gorge is more than just a dramatic ravine, but rather one of the world’s most important treasure trove for fossils too. It’s here that the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors can be found. And it’s the millions of years worth of fossilised bones and stone tools located in this site that have led experts to conclude that humans made their evolutionary beginnings in Africa. Yep, we told you that this place was special.
The dusty gorge is 48 km long and up to 90 m deep and it’s here, in amongst this rugged landscape, that you’ll step back in time to where we began – or, at least some form of us did anyway. It was the German entomologist, Professor Kattwinkel, who first stumbled across Olduvai Gorge’s ancient gems in 1911, but the site was truly founded 20 years later by Kenyan born Louis Leakey and his wife Mary. The first ‘human-like’ – for anybody who knows their stuff, really we mean hominin – skull was found by Mary in 1959 and dated at 1.75 million years old, at the time it was the oldest of its kind. Talk about one small step for (wo)man, one giant leap for (wo)mankind.
A place of contemplation, the history of Olduvai Gorge is nothing short of mind-boggling. Here, not only will you marvel at the dramatic, arid landscapes, but you’ll also get a first hand introduction to your African ancestors (and the artefacts that have been found alongside them of course) as you tour the site and wander the gorge’s museum.
For the real history buffs, there are special archaeological tours on offer at Olduvai Gorge, so that you can soak up all the facts from the horse’s – or in this case, a professional’s – mouth. After all, you’ve made it all the way here, so you’d only kick yourself later if you passed up the opportunity to get to grips with the gorge’s fascinating history. And, as part of the tour, you may even get to see the ominously named ‘Shifting Sands’. This black dune, made up of volcanic ash, is slowly moving its way across the plains. Ok, so it’s not physically moving itself, it is being blown by the wind but it’s still pretty eery. At least we think so anyway.
History buff or not, Olduvai’s archaeological importance is enough to interest anyone. Explore our Tanzania Holidays, created by us and tailored by you.
Eastern Serengeti Plain within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (Northern Tanzania).
You can be taken here on escorted tours, so opening times will vary.
Shoes that are made for walking and remember that you’re in a conservative country, so it’s best to follow suit.
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