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Tanzania -- Archaeology

Olduvai Gorge is probably one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. It lies on the northern tip of Lake Eyasi in Northern Tanzania. This early stone age site was discovered in 1911 by accident by a German, Professor Kattwinkel. While chasing a rare butterfly, he literally fell into the gorge and found fossilized bones while he was climbing back up the 300 foot cliff. Preliminary work before World War I was conducted by the Germans and Hans Rech who turned over the project to Louis and Mary Leakey. The conditions for the preservation of fossils were very good at Olduvai because of ash from nearby volcanoes and the rapid burial of remains due to changes in the lake bed. Up to 1959 only part of an upper jaw with two teeth had been discovered. In July of 1959, Mary Leakey found a skull called Zinjanthropus boisei (latter reclassified Australopithecus boisei), dated at 1,750,000 years old. This discovered showed that humans had evolved in Africa. More advanced hominids ware also found at Olduvai such as homo habilis and homo erectus. Other finds included tools, bones and teeth from a variety of animals. A year and half later, Louis Leakey discovered the remains of a juvenile who was older than Zinjanthropus. Olduvai Gorge is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an important tourist stop.

At Laetoli, in the Southern Serengeti plains, about 40 km from Olduvai Gorge, Mary Leakey found evidence, in 1974-1975, of hominids even older than those found at Olduvai Gorge. These were classified as Australapithecus afarensis. One of the discoveries at this site was fossilized footprints dating back 3.5 million years. These footprints are the earliest evidence of bipedal locomotion in hominids.

In 1964, Kamaya Kimeu discovered a jaw with all its teeth of Australapithecus at Peninj, another site only 50 km form Olduvai Gorge. At this site 120 artifacts were also found.

For Further Reading:
Allen, James de Vere. Swahili Origins. London, 1993.
Horton, Mark. Shanga: The Archeology of a Muslim Trading Community on the Coast of East of Africa. London and Nairobi, 1996.
Leakey, Richard. The Origin of Mankind. New York, 1996

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