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The Olduvai Gorge Project

Location: Serengeti Plains , Tanzania

July 9, 2014 to August 13, 2014

Session dates: 
Single session

Application Deadline: 
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Deadline Type: 

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



University College London, Colorado State University & Institute for Field Research

Project Director:

Dr. Ignacio de la Torre, University College London; Dr. Michael Pante, Colorado State University

Project Description

The transition from the earliest human culture, the Oldowan, to the more sophisticated Acheulean, is one of the most significant events in the evolution of human technology. Despite the importance of this technological transition, little is known about the biological and cultural evolutionary mechanisms underlying it.  Traditionally, this major cultural shift has been linked with the emergence of Homo erectus, a species defined by its much larger brain and body size, while the transformation from Oldowan simple core-and-flake technology to Acheulean handaxes was viewed as a steady progression rather than a revolutionary change.  However, these assumptions are not grounded in the current available evidence, but rooted in cultural- history paradigms that are only now being tested. The Olduvai Gorge Archaeology Field School will collect fresh data on the emergence of the Acheulean at Olduvai and contribute to ongoing research being conducted by an international multidisciplinary team of researchers, the Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project (OGAP).

Period(s) of Occupation: Pleistocene

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: Full program

Minimum age: 
18 years old

Experience required: 
No previous experience is required

Room and Board Arrangements

Students will camp at the historical field compound built by Mary Leakey on the rim of the gorge, at walking distance from many of the sites in Olduvai Gorge.  This is a rustic but comfortable camp and students will share facilities with the entire research team. There is no running water at camp so students are encouraged to bring solar shower bags for personal use. Limited power is available for charging electronic devices, such as flashlights, phones, and computers. There are separate outhouse facilities for men and women that are cleaned daily by the project’s support staff.
All meals will be communal events and will provide plenty of nutritious but basic food in the tradition of local cousin.  Specialized diets (vegan, kosher, etc.) are difficult to maintain in this remote location. Vegetarian may attend but will find options fairly limited.

All room and board costs are included in tuition

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
Connecticut College
Number of credits offered 8 semester credit units (equivalent to 12 quarter units)


Contact Information
Institute for Field Research
1855 Industrial St. #106
Los Angeles
United States
424 226-6130
Recommended Bibliography: 

Klein, R. 2000. "Archeology and the Evolution of Human Behavior." Evolutionary Anthropology 9, 17-36. 

Torre, I de la, McHenry, LJ, Njau, JK., Pante, MC, 2012. "The Origins of the Acheulean at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania): A New Paleoanthropological Project in East Africa." Archaeology International 15:69-78. 

White, T. D. 2004. "Managing paleoanthropology´s nonrenewable resources: a view from Afar." C.R. Palevol, 3: 341-351. 

Roche, H., Blumenschine, R. J. & Shea, J. J., 2009. "Origins and Adaptations of Early Homo: What Archeology Tells Us". In (F. E. Grine, J. G. Fleagle & R. E. Leakey, Eds.) The First Humans: Origins and Early Evolution of the Genus Homo. Dordrecht: Springer, 135-147. 

Torre, I. de la 2011. "The origins of stone tool technology in Africa: a historical perspective." Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 366, 1028-1037. 

Aiello, L. C., Wheeler, P. (1995). "The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis: The Brain and the Digestive System in Human and Primate Evolution." Current Anthropology 36, 199-221. 

Plummer, T. 2004. "Flaked Stones and Old Bones: Biological and Cultural Evolution at the Dawn of Technology." Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 47: 118-164.