Partial reopening of the Laetoli footprints

Artist impression of homonids walking at Olduvai Gorge

Starting today and ending February the 14th, a team of archeologists will partially re-excavate an area of three metres of the famous Laetoli footprints in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. These footprints not only record the diversity of life in the Pliocene savannas of East Africa but more significantly but offer the unique evidence of bipedalism in hominids from 3.6 million years ago.

Olduvai Gorge - site of the excavations Archaeologist Dr Mary Leakey and her team discovered the footprints in 1978 which are believed to be of a man who lived some 3.6 million years ago and walked on two legs. Between 1992 and 1998 archaeologists from Tanzania working with experts from Getty Institute embarked on the delicate work of preserving the footprints, documentation and reburial of the track way.

The footprints demonstrate that the hominids walked upright habitually, as there are no knuckle-impressions. The feet do not have the mobile big toe of apes; instead, they have an arch (the bending of the sole of the foot) typical of modern humans. The hominids seem to have moved in a leisurely stroll.

The museum at Olduvai Gorge TanzaniaScientists state that the reasons for the upcoming partial re-excavation are to evaluate the current status of the buried footprint trial, to take samples allowing for scientific studies and analyses and to allow communities, journalists and other stakeholders to see the prints in their authentic form.

If your trip through Tanzania brings you through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, on the way to the Serengeti National Park, make sure you include a stop at the museum to get a first-hand view of life millions of years ago!

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