Olduvai Gorge

Tanzania’s Oldest Detective Scene

“Cradle of mankind's” technical & intellectual evolution

Natural rock monolith in Olduvai Gorge

Peering into the great amphitheater of Olduvai Gorge you are witnessing the archeological history of mankind. For this world-renowned site has revealed an incredible collection of fossilized human bones, skulls, and prehistoric tools. Spread out before you is not only the earliest evidence of our ancestors but a record of their continuing evolution over millions of years.

Here in this “Cradle of Mankind” you’ll see proof of the first human steps taken on two feet, of man walking upright – hominid footprints persevered in volcanic rock, dating back to 3.5 million years.  

At Olduvai, not only will you view man’s earliest stone tools, but a progression of how those tools evolved – from simple chipped pebbles to the development of the hand axe.

Considered the most significant paleoanthropological site in the world, the unearthing of fossilized mammal and human bones and tools continues. During your visit you may even witness an active dig, searching for yet more historic discoveries.

Mary and Richard Leakey

No story of Olduvai would be complete without an introduction of the Leakeys. Indeed, Richard and Mary Leakey are synonymous with the notoriety of the gorge. Starting in the 1930s, this husband and wife team began their search in Olduvai for ancient artifacts, finding stone tools and then a 25-million-year-old fossilized skull from an ape

But the moment that put the Leakeys and Olduvai on the map was a day in 1959 when Mary Leakey discovered parts of a fossilized early human skull. Soon thereafter, the Leakeys discovered hundreds of pieces of an almost complete hominid skull. Even more startling was the realization that they had found a new category of human, one not previously known.

Dating back 1.75 million years, this was the oldest human ancestor discovered and clear proof that humans had their origins on the African continent.

Richard Leakey
Mary Leakey showing fossils
Olduvai Gorge Tanzania - cradle of mankind

Layers of Antiquity

Nature and the land of Olduvai have conveniently organized this treasure of antiquities into four distinct layers or sediment beds. Standing at the edge of the main dig at the gorge, you can see these different levels – the lower ones being the oldest.

This segmenting allows archaeologists to accurately date their many discoveries and make evolutionary connections. The artifacts found in Bed 1, the oldest, date back to around 1.75 to 1.9 million years.

A Record of Evolution

The progression of tools found on the site is an amazing window into mankind’s technical and intellectual evolution. In the oldest beds, prior to the discovery of tools, archeologists have found evidence of scavenging, noted by gnaw marks that predate the cut marks made by tools.

The discovery that tools and animal remains were collected in a centralized area shows a developing social interaction. This communal behavior evidences an evolution in early man’s cognitive abilities and the first indications of conduct that could be recognizable as our own.

Olduvai Gorge Tanzania evolution
Olduvai Gorge Tanzania entrance

Olduvai Gorge Highlights

Olduvai Museum – One of the largest onsite museums in Africa, situated near the gorge, it features interactive exhibits shedding light on the area’s many discoveries. Enjoy a detailed walking exhibit of human evolution and exacting reproductions of the area’s significant finds.

Guided tours – Guides, native to the area conduct tours illuminating the history and significance of the gorge.

Oldupai Gorge Monument – Erected in 2019, the monument stands as a tribute to this world-renowned site and as a road marker indicating its nearby presence.

Olduvai Gorge Facts & Figures

“Oldupai” is the Masai word for the wild sisal plant that grows all around the area. This steep-sided ravine 48 km (30 mi) long and 89 m (295 ft) deep exposes four layers or beds, the oldest being about 2 million years.

This is Olduvai Gorge

A treasure of antiquity and a natural monument to mankind’s evolution, Olduvai  Gorge changed the face of archeology and what we know about how our ancestors lived and developed. Olduvai is a wonderful detour on your northern Tanzania safari – a chance to come up close with the face of history.

Join us at Olduvai Gorge

Africa Kenya Safaris offers journeys to Oldupai Gorge and other attractions in the region. Just contact us to get your safari started.

Here are some of our tours bringing you to Olduvai Gorge:

4 parks: Masai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater & Lake Manyara

4 Parks: Amboseli, Lake Manyara, Serengeti & Ngorongoro

5 parks: Masai Mara, Lake Victoria/Serengeti/Ngorongoro, & Tarangire 

6 parks: Kenya-Tanzania African safari

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Help us create your perfect Safari! Tell us about your travel choices, any unique experiences you desire, and upcoming special occasions.