Oldupai Gorge

The famous steep-sided ravine, delivered its Maasai name from a wild sisal plant “Oldupai”. The Olduvai Gorge Geosite is 100-m deep and 46-km long stream-cut valley. The Gorge is located at the western flank of the Ngorongoro Volcanic Highlands in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), on the plains of the Serengeti ecosystem (Plate 3). It is one of the most famous paleoanthropological site in the world, renowned from tireless investigation by late L. S. B.  Leakey and M. D. Leakey. The volcanic beds formed in Pliocene Epoch spanning the last 2 million years before present (bp) have yielded an unsurpassed record of past environments; fossil hominids attributed to Australopithecus (Paranthropus) boisei, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus, Early, Middle and Late Stone Age artifacts; and a wide range of fossilized faunal remains.

Since the area is known for its oldest evidence of mankind’s evolution “Cradle of human kind”, UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, there have been ongoing research projects run by various teams for instance The Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP), Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project (OGAP) formed by several professional researchers from various fields from abroad and within the country. The main goal of these teams is to broaden our understanding on hominin behaviour. In addition to that renewing excavations by applying new techniques that were not available for the past 50 years of research in the area. These researches have contributed to major publication of journals, books, articles and Ph. D dissertation. The Olduvai Geosite henceforth has scientific and educational value importantly in understanding our past and present.

Olduvai Gorge Geosite is open to the public and has been one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tanzania. There are many localities or sites in Olduvai were current research are ongoing. These are FLK Zinj, FLK North, FLK West, SHK, BK, EF-HR, MNK, PTK, et cetera. FLK Zinj is considered one of the important site at Olduvai Gorge recognized as one of the prime examples of a localized, dense concentration of Oldowan tools and fossilized bones.

The significance of the site for understanding the origins of sophisticated hominin behavior, such as foraging strategies, is documented by abundant butchered bones and evidence of repeated transport of portions of at least 48 large mammal carcasses (mostly Bovidae) to this location on the paleolandscape (Domínguez-Rodrigo et al., 2010).Despite of some hill terrain, few vegetation covers but most of these sites are easily accessible. This may facilitates tourist education and enjoyment to become more convenient. Although there are poor facilities at the site museum, deterioration of exhibits, few experts relating to archaeology or museum yet if these services and attraction are developed and properly managed may attract more and more tourists at the site. Generated revenues must be used in maintaining the cultural resources for long-term survival and productivity.

The cultural practices of local people have also explored usage of different plant species in the area as source of medicine. The wide-spread plant species such as Oldupai (Sanseveria suffruticosa) is used as an ant-poison, and the Engrorit (Acacia nilotica) is commonly used for morale. The white latex “Euphobia tirucalli” is a medicinal plant for curing stomach pains. The abundantly specie “Commiphora swynnertonii” (Plate 4)locally known as Ndemwai is the famous medicinal plant for variety of diseases including skin rashes, and tooth ache.

Plate 4: Commiphora swynnertonii (Ndemwai in Maasai) in Olduvai Gorge Geosite