Olduvai Gorge

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Olduvai Gorge

(ōl`dəwā', –vā'), a feature of the E African Rift Valley in Tanzania. Erosional processes have exposed geological strata in the gorge dating to the lower Pleistocene epoch, about 1.8 million to 600,000 years ago. The site was made famous by the numerous hominin fossils excavated by Louis LeakeyLeakey, Louis Seymour Bazett
, 1903–72, British archaeologist and anthropologist of E Africa, b. Kabete, Kenya; father of Richard Leakey. His fossil discoveries in E Africa demonstrated that humans were far older than had previously been suspected.
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 and his wife, Mary LeakeyLeakey, Mary Douglas,
1913–96, British archaeologist, b. London as Mary Douglas Nicol; wife of Louis Leakey and mother of Richard Leakey. She had little formal education, but a fascination with archaeology led to her supervising her first dig in England in 1934.
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, as well as by later researchers. Examples of at least three species of hominins have been found at Olduvai, including AustralopithecusAustralopithecus
, an extinct hominin genus found in Africa between about 4 and 1 million years ago. At least seven species of australopithecines are now generally recognized, including Australopithecus afarensis, A. africanus, A. bahrelghazali, A.
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 boisei, Homo habilis, and Homo erectusHomo erectus
, extinct hominin living between 1.6 million and 250,000 years ago. Homo erectus is thought to have evolved in Africa from H. habilis, the first member of the genus Homo. African forms of H.
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. In addition, the two earliest stone tool traditions, Oldowan and Acheulian (see Paleolithic periodPaleolithic period
or Old Stone Age,
the earliest period of human development and the longest phase of mankind's history. It is approximately coextensive with the Pleistocene geologic epoch, beginning about 2 million years ago and ending in various places between
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), have been found along with fossil remains. Both the fossils and the tools have been important lines of evidence in understanding human evolutionhuman evolution,
theory of the origins of the human species, Homo sapiens. Modern understanding of human origins is derived largely from the findings of paleontology, anthropology, and genetics, and involves the process of natural selection (see Darwinism).
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. Recent research in Olduvai has centered on excavated camp sites addressing problems involving the social and dietary adaptations of early hominins.

Olduvai Gorge

a gorge in N Tanzania, north of the Ngorongoro Crater: fossil evidence of early man and other closely related species, together with artefacts