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Olduvai Gorge

Olduvai Gorge

The story of the discovery of Olduvai Gorge has become more fanciful through the years. The tale goes that in the early 1900s, German entomologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel was chasing a pretty butterfly across the Tanganyikan wilderness when he tumbled off a rocky ledge, nearly killing himself. As he regained his senses, he looked up to discover himself in a gorge overflowing with ancient fossils and artifacts.

While it is unlikely that falling to his near death was part of the original expedition, Kattwinkel did indeed discover an archaeologist’s dream site. Often referred to as “the Cradle of Mankind,” the Olduvai Gorge has yielded some of the earliest known human bones and artifacts. Excavation was pioneered by Louis and Mary Leakey in the early 1930s. The stratification of the gorge is extremely deep and many layered.

The Olduvai Gorge is part of the Africa’s Great Rift Valley that stretches north-to-south in eastern Africa, occurring in northern Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains. Scientists believe that in prehistoric times this was the site of a large lake, which collected successive layer of volcanic ash. It appears that humans lived along its banks, and after the lake dried up, a stream eventually developed that cut through the sediment and created the region’s ravines.

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