TANZANIA olduvai gorge SAFARIS


Olduvai Gorge (aka Oldupai) in northern Tanzania is a rich palaeoanthropology site to visit when on a safari-cum-cultural holiday in East Africa. The gorge, located in between the Ngorongoro Maasai lands and the Serengeti wildlife plains, is a deep ravine more than 48 kilometers (30 miles) in length with a weathered monolith where one can clearly trace the strata of succeeding changes in climate over millions of years. This is where the Louis and Mary Leakey excavated evidence of the evolution of mankind through varied distinct layers of different sediments. These show the development of the area from a lake to dry grassland carved by a river and deeply influenced by volcanic activity. AfricanMecca Safaris recommend a trip diversion to Olduvai Gorge as a moving enlightening experience not to be missed when you take your life-changing vacation in Serengeti and Ngorongoro. Paleontologists Wilhelm Kattwinkel and Hans Reck discovered fossil remains in Olduvai of extinct three-toed horses in 1911 and a hominid skeleton in 1913 respectively. But the war interrupted further explorations. The Leakeys, following up these leads from a museum in Germany, had to suspend their digs until after World War II and in between the independence struggles in Kenya and Tanzania (East Africa Protectorate). In the deepest layer, dating from 2 million years ago, they found Homo habilis remains, with a brain half the size of modern man, possibly co-occurring with Paranthropus boisei with more apelike features, a sagittal crest, but a rounded cranial brain and a robust jaw, known as “Nutcracker man” who was there until 1.75 million years ago and was thought to use simple tools.

Then Homo erectus or upright man made hand axes and occupied the site until Homo sapiens appeared 17,000 years ago. Modern day fossil seekers on tour in Olduvai Gorge have linked the development of humankind with the change in ecosystems. Long-armed Homo habilis or the “handy man” was forced to descend from trees to live on grassland and was followed by tool-making hunters, as demonstrated by the evidence of more sophisticated hand axes and deposits of bones which showed them to live in communities. The remains of stone circles may have indicated the building of primitive houses. From casts of the footprint trail of early hominids who first stood upright over 3.7 million years ago in Laetoli, through the bones and artefacts recovered from the Olduvai Gorge and from Engaruka, where hominid teeth were discovered dating back 2.4 million years, the modest, small museum at Olduvai exhibits a diverse range of fascinating material, ably explained by enthusiastic guides who will also accompany you to the valley where much was found, to experience for yourself the surroundings in which our ancestors developed as tool makers and social communities of hunter-gatherers. Much controversy still exists and work is still ongoing using modern technology to date and link the evolution of humankind with the changes in landscape and climate which are now believed to have catalyzed our development in what appears to be the earliest known home of the ancestors of modern man.