1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania


Rift Valley, Tanzania, Africa

Rift Valley, Tanzania, Africa

Scott Chacon
Definition: Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley of Tanzania was excavated by Louis and Mary Leakey in the mid-1950s. The site, or rather group of sites, is nine miles long and 350 feet deep and includes almost 2 million years of occupation.

Sites at Olduvai are primarily stream and lake-side occupations, where stone working occurred. A stone-hut structure is in evidence at the DK locality, dated approximately 1.8 million years ago. Other site types include butchery sites, home bases, and storage caches.

Fossil hominids identified at Olduvai include Australopithecus boisei, Homo habilis and Homo erectus. Stone tool assemblages recognized there include Acheulean and Oldowan.

The excavations at Olduvai were important because they established the African origin of humankind.


Blumenschine, Robert J. 1995 Percussion marks, tooth marks, and experimental determinations of the timing of hominid and carnivore access to long bones at FLK Zinjanthropus, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Journal of Human Evolution 29:21-51.

Diez-Martín, Fernando, et al. 2009 Were Olduvai Hominins making butchering tools or battering tools? Analysis of a recently excavated lithic assemblage from BK (Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28(3):274-289.

Kroll, Ellen M. and Glynn L. Isaac 1984 Configurations of artifacts and bones at early Pleistocene sites in East Africa. In Intrasite Spatial Analysis in Archaeology. Harold J. Hietala, ed. Pp. 4-31.

Leakey, Mary D. 1975 Cultural patterns in the Olduvai sequence. In After the Australopithecines. Karl W. Butzer and Glynn L. Isaac, eds. The Hague: Mouton.

Mora, Rachel and Ignacio de la Torre 2005 Percussion tools in Olduvai Beds I and II (Tanzania): Implications for early human activities. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 24(2):179-192.

Smaller segments of the gorge are called localities, and include such places as FLK and DK.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.