The archaeological site of Olduvai Gorge is located in the eastern Serengeti in northern Tanzania within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The gorge is a steep sided 4 to 8 kilometers long ravine, which forms part of the Great Rift Valley. It is situated on a series of fault lines which, along with centuries of erosion, has revealed fossils and remnants of early humankind.
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. Since then, excavators working in Olduvai have found skeletal remains of a number of ancient hominids – Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Australopithecus Boisei. Old campsites and what is believed to be a butchery site, as well as a loosely built circle of lava blocks was also found suggesting that crude shelters were also built here. Other findings include hunting weapons, basic tools and remains of dead animals once killed by humans.
The name Olduvai originated from a European misspelling of Oldupai, the correct Maasai word for this region of great historical importance – named after the wild sisal plant fibre growing in abundance in the gorge.
There is also a museum where visitors can listen to lectures and see visual representation of the discoveries made in the region.
There is the volcanic ash dune of Shifting Sands situated near Olduvai Gorge. These crescent-shaped mounds are a remarkable phenomenon. Technically they are known as barkan, and they result if there is sufficient dust on the ground and a unidirectional wind to blow it. The dust collects around a stone, and this collection accumulates more. The process continues, with the mound growing all the time, and then it begins to move. The crescents have their two sharp arms pointing the way the wind is going, and the whole shape is beautifully symmetrical.