Thursday, October 25, 2012

O is for Olduvai Gorge

Africa's Olduvai Gorge is considered one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. It is located in the Eastern Serengeti in Northern Tanzania, within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Gorge is a long ravine, forming part of Africa's Great Rift Valley. This Rift Valley stretches from the Red Sea through East Africa to the southern end of Mozambique and is characterized by uninhabitable desert and fertile farmland, flat arid plains and steep escarpments. It is also the only major land feature on earth visible with the naked eye from the moon.

 The name is an early misspelling of Oldupai Gorge, which was adopted as its official name in 2005. Oldupai is the Masai word for the wild sisal that grows there.

Over time, a series of fault lines, along with centuries of erosion, has revealed fossils and remnants of early humankind in Olduvai Gorge, which have been instrumental in furthering the understanding of human evolution.

Excavations in the early twentieth century by the famous archaeologist, Dr Louis Leakey, uncovered some of the earliest remains of fossil hominids at Olduvai. 

Seventeen years after the first discovery of human forms, Leakey’s wife, Mary, discovered the unmistakable fossilized footprints of a human ancestor who had walked along a riverbank three million years ago.

Skull of extinct giraffe

Since then, excavators 
working in Olduvai have 
found skeletal remains 
of a number of 
ancient hominids, 
including Homo habilis, 
Homo erectus and 
Australopithecus Boisei.

The Monolith

This archaeological evidence convinced most paleontolgists that humans originally evolved in Africa, and led to Olduvai Gorge being dubbed "The Cradle of Mankind'.

We came upon Olduvai in 2006  as we made our way from the Masai Mara in Kenya to Tanzania's Serengeti. 

When our driver stopped at a small, shabby museum, we were surprised by its  
seemed an unlikely holder of this area's rich history.

 Seated on small benches overlooking the Gorge, we listened attentively as a native guide explained the significance of the site.
It was only when we were leaving that I realized not all in our group were impressed. The two twenty-something girls with us rolled their eyes in boredom and asked why we'd stopped to look at "a big hole in the ground". Having never heard of the Leakey family or of Olduvai Gorge, and being unable to follow the guide's broken English, it must have seemed an odd thing to be sitting there, indeed.

Never underestimate the importance of context!

We shared our picnic lunch with a number of tiny birds that occupy the site.

I am linking this post to ABC Wednesday, and suggest you drop by and check out other takes on the letter'O'...



Wanda said...

This is a very interesting read.

The pictures are absolutely stunning!

This was quite a history lesson.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

OMG, what fabulous photos of my favorite country! So interesting, Lynette. I found this so interesting. Amazing that Leakey's wife found such ancient footprints. How awesome. Loved feasting my eyes on the photos. Your site is always a knockout. Beauty everywhere.

Leslie: said...

What a fabulous opportunity you had to go there! I am

abcw team

Roger Owen Green said...

This is AMAZING! Truly astonishing OBSERVATIONS.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Mama Pajama said...

WOW! fantastic...what a great shot you have in your background! what a wonderfully informative post! love the photos - and how real it was with all the girls rolling their eyes, and thank you for noticing everything you did so that I could see it, too. the museum looks simply marvelous...thanks.

Joy said...

A fabulous place to be an archaeologist. What an interesting trip you had.
Joy - ABC Team

Carver said...

Fascinating post and a beautiful place. I enjoyed this very much. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

ChrisJ said...

Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments. I love your blog and have joined as a follower. Your photos are outstanding! I scrolled back to older posts to enjoy your commentary and photography.

Zimbabwe said...

Thanks so much for leading me to this post, I find it really interesting. Other than stopping to refuel a flight in the old days before we could fly direct, I have not been to Tanzania. I have though seen the the Zimbabwe ruins and also Sterkfontein Caves in S.Africa
I am now your newest follower. Take care and have a good weekend. Diane

EG CameraGirl said...

I enjoyed reading the information here and I'm surprised the 20-somethings could not see the importance of such a wonderful place. Sometimes years do make us wiser!