Inside of Ngorongoro Conservation Area, close to the border of the Serengeti National Park, lies one of the most famous archeology sites in the world. Visitors now see Olduvai Gorge (also known under the Maasai name of “Oldupai”) as a dry, shallow canyon draining wet season run-off from Lakes Ndutu and Masek to the Olbalbal depression. However, scientists report that several million years ago the entire area was a vast alkaline lake. The wildly fluctuating waters of this ancient lake formed the definitive sediment layers that have yielded a valuable paleoanthropological and archaeological record. In over seventy years since Louis and Mary Leakey first began searching the area for clues to our distant past, more than sixty hominid remains have been found, belonging to four different hominids, showing the gradual increase in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools. One of the most famous of these discoveries was made by Mary Leakey and is the well known ‘Zinjanthropus’. At Laetoli, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock perhaps some 3.6 million years old and represent some of the earliest signs of the small brained, upright-walking Australopithecus afarensis, ever to be found. Imprints are among the fascinating exhibits in the museum located at the site. Excavations are on-going and continue to produce splendid specimens of extinct hominids, animals and plants. The museum at Olduvai Gorge provides excellent exhibits, lectures and its location offers great views over the gorge. Walking tours of the area can be arranged.
Pre-historic Rock Paintings
There are a few sites in Tanzania where well preserved rock paintings are to be found. The best known are near the town of Iringa known as the Kolo Rock Paintings. While the majority of tourists would not make a special trip just to view these, if your itinerary takes you close to one of these areas, it is definitely of interest. There is an informative website dedicated to rock paintings in Tanzania, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/tanzania/index.php.