Visit Olduvai Gorge with Dr. Michael Pante and his team

We are excited to share with you Dr. Michael Pante's work, which is highlighted in this video that was developed with the use of drones! Continue reading to learn more about Olduvai Gorge, Dr. Pante, and graduate student Matthew Muttart, who was a student at the Olduvai Project field school

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania 

Olduvai Gorge, a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site, was made famous by the astonishing discoveries of Louis and Mary Leakey that included early human fossils and associated primitive stone technology. Hundreds of thousands of tourists from around the world visit Olduvai Gorge annually because of its importance to human origins. One of these visitors, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said following her 1997 visit to the site: 

“It became clear to me that we black, white, brown, of every religion, of every corner of the globe come from the same place. We share a common home. We are part of a larger family. If we stop for a minute to think about what we have learned about the origins of mankind, we know that we come from Africa”. 

Olduvai is often referred to as “the cradle of humankind” and is regarded as the original home of all people from around the world, which is reflected by former Secretary Clinton’s emotional sentiments. For the last seven years the Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project (OGAP), an international research and conservation team, has been excavating 1.5 to 1.7 million year old archaeological sites that would otherwise be lost to erosion, and undertaking ground-breaking research using sophisticated methods of recovery and analysis to create a permanent record of the amazing discoveries unearthed from within the gorge. The local Tanzanian community, the Maasai tribes, and the worldwide community of academics are working together to safe guard this wonderful site and better understand the series of events that led to the emergence of our own species. 

Michael Pante, Assistant Professor, Biological Anthropology

Dr. Pante is a paleoanthropologist interested in the evolution and feeding behavior of early members of the human genus (Homo). His current work is at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania where he is the senior zooarchaeologist for the OGAP, a collaborator with the Olduvai Landscape Paleoanthropology Project (OLAPP), and a co-director of the Olduvai Project field school. Dr. Pante examines the butchery and tooth marks left by both human ancestors and carnivores on fossils to unravel the feeding behavior and ecology of early humans. His current research is focused on understanding the impact of meat and marrow consumption on human evolution through the study of 1.5-2.0 million year old fossil assemblages. These assemblages coincide with a technological revolution that occurred when our ancestors abandoned the first and most primitive stone technology, called the Oldowan, and began to produce more sophisticated stone tools known as Acheulean handaxes. This transition was a pivotal moment in human evolution and is associated with the appearance of a new species, Homo erectus, and with a dietary shift towards increasing carnivory that may have been central to the evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens.  

Matthew Muttart, Graduate Student, Department of Anthropology - Participant in the Olduvai Project field school

Engaging in archeology outside of the library and participating in the Olduvai Gorge field school brought Matthew's undergraduate studies to life. Participation in the field school allowed him to learn archaeological methodology in an engaging hands on environment. Furthermore, the field school allowed him to step into a different time in our ancestral history, to see first hand the excavation, artifacts, and lab where the understanding of our evolutionary history is born. The greatest aspect of the field school was that it allowed me to experience life as an archaeologist. The articles Matthew had read for research were given an aspect of tangible reality as he had stepped foot and been a part of those excavations. He fostered lifelong friendships with peers just as excited about archaeology as he was while living and working at the original Leakey Camp. Matthew was also able to work under active researchers in the field and see first hand what a career in Archeology was comprised of. Ultimately, his experiences at Olduvai invigorated his academic pursuits and further assisted his trajectory into the professional world of Archaeology.