What To See
Oldupai Gorge & Laetoli
Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important archaeological sites on earth. The geological strata exposed in the gorge reveal a remarkable record of animal and human evolution from about two million until fifteen thousand years ago. Among the significant finds from Olduvai is the range of stone tool types, the thousands of animal fossils – both extinct and extant species – and the fossil bones of hominids (pre-Homo Sapiens) and early Homo sapiens. Mary & Louis Leakey unearthed here a jawbone in 1959, which has pushed back the beginning of human evolution well past the 1.5 Million year mark. The different kinds of hominids found here show a gradual increase in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools.
Earliest signs of humans in the Conservation Area are at Laetoli “The Cradle of Mankind.” This is the place where three separate tracks of small-brained upright-walking early hominids, “Lucy“ or Australopithecus afaresis, have been 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 is undoubtedly one of the most astounding and important scientific discoveries of our time. The 3.6 million year-old hominid trackway at Laetoli has been reburied for its protection but visitors can see and touch a huge cast of the actual “Lucy’ footprints in Laetoli Museum.
The work of Louis and Marry Leakey over five decades, as well as more recent investigations of the gorge are on display in the Olduvai Gorge Museum.The museum and visitor’s Centre offer numerous educational exhibits, including fossils and artifacts of our human ancestors and skeleton of many extinct animals who shared their world. There are also informative lectures, special guided archaeological site tours and native handcrafts. Olduvai Gorge can be visited with a member of the Olduvai Museum staff. The Olduvai Museum is open daily right at the Gorge.
Other prehistoric sites that can be visited are the Middle and Later Stone Age rock shelter at Nasera rock and the Iron Age ruins of Engaruka. The ruins are at least 500 years old
New sets of fresh legendary footprints believed to belong to the earliest human being who could have walked in Ngorongoro Conservation Area nearly 4 million years ago were discovered in 2015. The new footprints and imprints were located 60 meters from the site where similar humanoid footprints were found in 1976 at the Laetoli archaeological site. The new discovery continues to place Tanzania at the forefront of human origin research. So far Tanzania is the only country in the world boasting the oldest marks of human beings in the form of hominid footprints.