The 50 km long Olduvai Gorge between the Ngorongoro crater and Serengeti has on several occasions shed the light over the origin of human kind.
Already in the 1920’s, Mary and Lois Leakey found the first fossil leftovers of the forefathers of Homo sapiens, and later they dug up a few primitive stone tools and animal fossils. The important breakthrough came in 1959, when Mary Leakey discovered a skull of zinjanthropus (now called Australopithecus boisei), who lived about 1.75 million years ago.
Shortly thereafter they found fossils which had even greater similarities with humans, and they came to the conclusion that this had to be a new species, Homo habilis(the able man), who lived in the Olduvai Gorge at the same time of the zinjanthropus. Homo habilis had a large brain and was able to make primitive tools.
In 1976 Mary Leakey made another revolutionary discovery in Laetoli close to Olduvai. This time it evolved around fossil footprints, which proved to be 3,6 million years old. They were set in volcanic ashes and were in amazingly good condition when she discovered them.
Today we know that these footprints stem from the species Australopithecus afarensia, a 1.30m tall creature looking more like a monkey than a human being. The footprints from Laetoli have revealed that our forefathers have been walking upraised for about 4 million years, twice as long as believed earlier.
In a 4-wheel-drive one can drive down the gorge and have a closer look at the findings. Most tourists settle for a brief look at the history in the museum,which is situated only 6 km from the main road between Ngorongoro and Seengeti. For a modest fee you get a lecture,a look at some of the findings, and access to study the planches and pictures of the prehistoric animals.