Make no bones about itJanuary 12, 2020 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C
Yes, I know: we've seen it before in "2001: A Space Odyssey". Oldupai is the location of the first monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece. It is over 30 miles long and 295 feet deep. Oldupai is the Maasai word for the wild sisal plant Sansevieria ehrenbergii, shown at the bottom of the photo.
Five different layers of rock can be seen quite clearly, and different types of hominoid have been found in each. Australopithecus Zinjanthropus (Boisei), Australopithecus Afarensis (like Lucy) , Homo Habilis, Homo Sapiens and Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
When around 1930 the Leakeys discovered the remains of a 1.8 million year old skeleton of Australopithecus, (now renamed Paranthropus,) boisei, he became known as the Nutcracker Man, why I cannot tell. But his significance as one of the distinct links in the human evolutionary chain has ensured that this site has been excavated and researched since then, revealing an abundance of fossils spanning 5 million years and also a huge collection of stone tools, known as Oldowan, whose dispersion around the world has provided many clues to our species evolution.
A few years later, Mrs L stumbled across a complete set of footprints preserved in ash estimated to be over 3.7 million years old. They are believed to have belonged to our ancestor Australopithecus afarensis, proving that hominid species walked on two legs during the Pliocene era, some 3.7 million years ago. They are still there, at Laetoli, but apparently covered from view: these are plaster casts.
My loquacious guide insisted I photograph this bone left conveniently for tourists to photograph. But in fact, wherever you wander there are bone fragments to be found. Paleoecologists have determined that there was a spring and nearby forest nearby, explaining the abundance of eaten animal bones and explaining why it was such a good factory site.
Alas, most of the museum displays are resin casts of the originals which appear to be kept in museums around the world. For their own protection of course. That does not take away from the experience of walking through such a significant place in the human story.Read more