Oldupai Gorge

The Cradle of Mankind

Oldupai Gorge, 'The Cradle of Mankind', holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. This was the first place where traces of an early stone age culture was discovered.

Oldupai Gorge is an archaeological site in Tanzania that holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools in the area dating back millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.

Oldupai Gorge (originally misnamed Olduvai) is a Maasai word for a wild sisal plant that grows in the area. It the most archaeological site in East Africa, and has become an essential visit for the travellers to Ngorongoro and Serengeti.

The steep ravine is about 48.2 km long and 90 m deep, not quite large enough to classified as a canyon. A river cuts through several layers to form four individual beds, with the oldest estimated at about 2 million years old.

Oldupai Gorge
Entrance to Olduvai

At Laetoli, west of Ngorongoro Crater, hominid footprints are preserved in volcanic rock 3.6 million years old and represent some of the earliest signs of mankind in the world. Three separate tracks of a small-brained upright walking early hominid,  Australopithecus afarensis, a creature about 1.2 to 1.4 m high, were found. Imprints of these are displayed in the Oldupai Gorge Museum.

More advanced descendants of Laetolis’s hominids were found further north, buried in the layers of the 100 m deep Oldupai Gorge. Excavations, mainly by the archaeologists Louis and Mary Leakey, yielded four different kinds of hominid, showing a gradual increase in brain size and in the complexity of their stone tools. The first skull of Zinjanthropus, commonly known as 'Nutcracker man' who lived about 1.75 million years ago, this made it the oldest hominid discovered to that point.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area it is where people and their early ancestors have co-existed with wildlife for nearly four million years. This World Heritage site and international biosphere reserve encompasses a spectacular mosaic of landscape that includes the breath-taking Ngorongoro Crater and the legendary Serengeti, the annual host of the world’s highest concentration and diversity of migratory animals numbering nearly two millions strong.

The Oldupai Gorge Museum and visitors center offer numerous educational exhibits, including fossils and artefacts of our human ancestors and skeletons of many extinct animals who shared their world. There are also informative lectures, special guides to the archaeological site and shifting sand.

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Activities

At Oldupai Gorge you can do:

There is a nice museum here just off the main road to Serengeti National Park. The museum has an extensive collection of early animal and human fossils.

It is possible to go down into the gorge to view the excavation sites. You will need to be accompanied by a guide. This can be arranged at the museum.

How to Get There

Only 5 kilometers from the Serengeti-Ngorongoro Crater main road, and 205 kilometers from Arusha.

When to Go

All year round.

Experience Oldupai Gorge

Experience the world famous archaeological site of Oldupai Gorge, also known as the “Cradle of Mankind”. Visit the quaint museum and marvel at the rugged landscape.

This paleoanthropological site in the eastern Serengeti Plain is a steep sided ravine composed of two branches that have a combined length of about 48 km and 90 m deep. Deposits exposed in the sides of the gorge cover have yielded a treasure trove of fossil remains.

Contact our experts on how you can include Oldupai Gorge in your itinerary.

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