2019 University of North Carolina at Greensboro Olduvai Gorge Paleoanthropology Field School

This program will provide young scholars with an exceptional study abroad experience at one of the world’s premier paleoanthropological sites: Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The site was made famous by the excavations of Mary and Louis Leakey and is home to dozens of the most well-preserved early archaeological sites in the world. Students will have the unique opportunity to support, and participate in, an international project that is tracking the bio-behavioral evolution of our remote ancestors between 2 and 1 million years ago.

Olduvai Gorge lies within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area preserves a nearly continuous record of human evolution and climate change between 2 and 1 million years ago. To put it simply, there is no better place in all of Africa for those interested in this phase of human evolution. Since 2006, The Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP) has carried out fieldwork in the area and, over the past nine years, scholars from all over the world have conducted cutting-edge research on ancient human biology, behavior, and environments. As participants in the field school, students will have the opportunity to be intimately involved in nearly every phase of this endeavor. The daily routine will involve half a day in the field conducting excavations and half a day back at the research station carrying out artifact curation and analysis. The sites to be excavated and the artifacts to be curated and analyzed will depend on that year’s research foci.

While students receive training in basic paleoanthropological field and laboratory techniques they will also experience the rich cultures and diverse wildlife of one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. The specific responsibilities of students will depend on the field season’s research foci but, regardless of year, each student will gain experience in all aspects of field and lab research. Students will also attend weekly lectures describing the region’s prehistory, culture, and ecology. Four excursions are also planned: two paleoanthropological sites (Engaresero and Lake Ndutu), a visit to the local Masaai market, and a safari day within the Ngorongoro Crater.