Olduvai Gorge and shallower side gorges off the main one, cut into the western edges of the Rift Valley on the Serengeti plains in the heart of the protected area of the Ngorongoro (NCA).
The area is of an exceptional archaeological interest:
There is evidence of much more verdant vegetation, even a lake, lake shore trees; climate changes over the millenia have led to very marked sedimentation - layers of earth and rock, obvious even to the lay person. This has continued over almost the last two million years and to a relatively rapid burial of many comparatively intact flints and other tools as well as faunal remains.
The intense volcanic activity of the time has caused different levels of volcanic “ash” that could be accurately dated - these “beds” also consist of other earth materials.
Over time this long sequence of movement and erosion from streams, small rivers caused runoff and then the widening and deepening of the various gorges and this in turn has cut through the layers, making them accessible to researchers. It is effectively a well-protected and monitored “living laboratory of pre-history” and still the focus of much ongoing research.
Although Olduvai is often cited as the "Cradle of Mankind", it should be remembered that other prehistoric human groups were present in many parts of Africa and that here, particularly, a combination of accidental local conditions and other favourable factors enabled the initial exciting discovery, careful conservation and long-established research of direct and indirect evidence of the existence of our forefathers at this magical, fascinating site.