Issue 00356 

Feb 12 - 18, 2005

Local News

Olduvai Gorge's name now changed to the original ‘Oldupai!'

"Authorities say foreign researchers had goofed

By Valentine Marc Nkwame

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authorities (NCAA), have officially changed the name of the world famous archaeological site from the widely used ‘Olduvai' name, to the reportedly correct term, Oldupai Gorge, effective from this year.

Sources from inside the NCAA have explained the decision as a move to revert to the original and correct name, for the internationally renowned, cradle of mankind. Oldupai is a Maasai term which means, "Wild sisal with very high shoots!" Plants that used to grow in the area.

Apparently according to the officer in charge at the Olduvai museum, John Pareso, the first researchers who discovered the gorge, had actually misspelled its name, calling it "Olduvai," instead of the correct term, "Oldupai"

The Olduvai Gorge is a 30-mile long, 295-foot-deep ravine located within the Ngorongoro Conservation area. It is one of the most successful archaeological sites in the world and the closest thing to the "Garden of Eden," where the first human being walked the earth.
Some of the oldest human fossil remains have been unearthed there. The most famous discovery occurred in 1959 when British archeologist Mary Leakey, along with her husband Louis, discovered remains of a man who due to his extra-large molars, was named, "The Nutcracker Man". These remains, are believed to be about 1.75 million years old.
The gorge is a very steep sided ravine roughly 30 miles long and 295 feet deep. Exposed deposits show rich fossil fauna, many hominid remains and items, belonging to one of the oldest stone tool technologies, called Olduwan. The time span of the objects recovered date from 2 million to 15,000 years ago.
The main Olduvai Beds are in a lake basin about 16 miles in diameter. The rocks under the basin date to 5.3 million years ago. There have been seven major Beds distinguished and they are ranked from oldest to youngest; Bed I, to Bed IV, the Masek Beds, the Ndutu Beds, and Baisiusiu Beds.
Bed I dates to 2,100,000 years old and is 197 feet thick. It is mainly formed of lava flows, volcanic-ash deposits and other sediments. The upper part of the bed contains varied fauna and evidence of the Olduwan industry. Skeletal remains of hominids are assigned to the Homo Habilis an Australopithecus Boisei families. Campsites and what is believed to be a butchery site have also been excavated from this bed.
The Hominid living sites in Bed I are found mainly where streams from the volcanic highlands carried fresh water to Olduvai lake. The conditions for the preservation of the sites is mainly due to the ash falls from the nearby volcanoes and the inconsistency of the lake's depth. The debris found at the sites are various Olduwan tools, bone and teeth from animals, mainly from fair sized antelopes. Also a loosely built circle of lava blocks was found, suggesting that crude shelters were formed here as well.
The living sites in Beds II-IV are normally found in what would have been river and stream channels. Therefore, many of the sites were displaced by water action.
Bed II is 66-98 feet thick and is 1,150,000 to 1,700,000 years old. It has two main divisions of rock layer, upper and lower, that were separated by an erosional break. The lower part of Bed II is similar to Bed I. The upper part was formed after fault shifts had reduced the ancient lakes size. It is in this part of Bed II that the development of the Acheulian industry starts to show. Here also are the remains of Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus and Australopithecus Boisei.
The gorge was modified by fault shifting and erosion. It is after these geographical changes that Beds III and IV were created. These two Beds range from 1,150,00 to 600,000 years ago. These two Beds are separable only in the eastern part of the gorge and are combined elsewhere into a single unit. They have a maximum thickness of about 98 feet and consists mainly of sediment from streams that fed Olduvai Lake.
During a period of major faulting and volcanism roughly 400,000 to 600,000 years ago, the Masek Beds accumulated. They are up to 82 ft. thick and again contain mostly stream sediments with some aeolian (wind-worked) tuff. It is assumed the climate at this time was probably much like today based on the deposits found there. There is only one major archaeological site found in these beds and it is of the Acheulian tool industry.
The Ndutu Beds were formed by faulting, erosion and the filling of the gorge around 32,000 years ago. It consists mainly of aeolian tuff. In this Bed two sites have been found which date to the Middle Stone Age.
The last of the archaeological Beds is the Naisiusiu. It lays in the bottom of the Gorge at what is now the present depth. It only has a depth of 33 ft and also consists of aeolian tuff. It contains one site that has microlithic tools and one complete Homo-Sapiens skeleton, both of which, date to 17,000 years ago.




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