Olduvai Gorge Museum

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The Olduvai Gorge Museum
Oldupai gorge sign.jpg
Entrance to the museum
Establishedlate 1970s
LocationNgorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Coordinates2°59′46″S 35°21′08″E / 2.99614°S 35.35230°E / -2.99614; 35.35230Coordinates: 2°59′46″S 35°21′08″E / 2.99614°S 35.35230°E / -2.99614; 35.35230
CollectionsPaleoanthropological artifacts from the surrounding area
FounderMary Leakey

The Olduvai Gorge Museum is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania on the edge of the Olduvai Gorge. The museum was founded by Mary Leakey and is now under the jurisdiction of the Tanzanian government's Department of Cultural Antiquities. It is a museum dedicated to the appreciation and understanding of the Olduvai Gorge and Laetoli fossil sites.


The Olduvai Gorge Museum was founded by Mary Leakey in the late 1970s. The museum was originally designed to house paleoanthropological artifacts from the surrounding area. After her death, the Olduvai Gorge Museum was put under control of the Tanzanian government's Department of Cultural Antiquities. During the mid-1990s, the J. Paul Getty Museum's Department of Conservation renovated and added to the museum. This included a new wing with exhibitions that were designed by the Getty Museum.


The Olduvai Gorge Museum is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania on the edge of the Olduvai Gorge; directly where the Gorge split into two. It is approximately 5 km from the main road to the Serengeti plains north west of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.


The exhibits at the Olduvai Gorge Museum are centered around the paleoanthropological research and artifacts that have come from the surrounding area. There is one hall dedicated to the Leakey family and their pursuit of working at Olduvai Gorge. This hall has historical artifacts from the Olduvai Gorge area as well as charts and maps explaining the process of fossil excavation. Many of the artifacts are original but some are casts (specifically the hominid skulls). The adjacent hall is dedicated solely to the Laetoli fossilized footprints. A cast that was made of part of the footprint trail in 1996 by the J. Paul Getty Museum is on display. Accompanying this are several charts and photographs describing and illustrating the process of the Laetoli Footprints creation. There is also a large illustration depicting three Australopithecus afarensis walking through the area 3.6 million years ago. In addition to these indoor museum exhibits there are also two outdoor lecture areas. These are utilized for orientation presentations given by museum staff.


The Olduvai Gorge Museum staff consists of roughly 120 people. The museum has two curators, Godfrey Olle Moita Maasai (on site) and Donatius Kamamba (off site Tanzanian Department of Cultural Antiquities). The staff mainly consists of people from the local Maasai tribe. The staff is housed in what was once the Leakey's camp. Some members of the staff have been there since the museum opened and plan to continue working at the museum for as long as possible. They consider themselves the caretakers of Olduvai Gorge.


There are roughly 150 visitors a day during the peak season in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. During the rainy season (March-August) the attendance can fall to 0 visitors a day. Visitors typically come from the closest city (Arusha) by safari vehicle. They commonly come for lunch and then depart to continue their safari in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. According to the staff at the museum, visitors have come from all continents and represent most countries.


Further reading[edit]

  • B.Sc Pickering Ph.D, Ngorongoro’s Geological History (edited by NCAA, 1993).
  • Maasai people, The History and some Traditions of the Maasai (National Museum of Tanzania, Village Museum, Peramiho Printing Press 2004).
  • L.S.B. Leakey, Adam's Ancestors: The Evolution of Man and His Culture (Harper & Row Publishers 1960).
  • L.S.B. Leakey, By the Evidence, Memoirs 1932-1951 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1974).
  • Richard E. Leakey & Roger Lewin, Origins (E.P. Dutton 1977) ISBN 0-525-17194-0.

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