Recently while planning a day trip to Lake Magadi and I came across a prehistoric museum along Magadi road, about half way between Nairobi and Lake Magadi.
I’ve previously heard a lot about the archaeological and historical findings in Kenya, but I haven’t really gone to see any of them myself. Well, except for visiting the National Museum in Nairobi. Anyway, so Olorgesailie Museum and Prehistoric site is listed under the National Museums of Kenya.
About an hour and a few minutes from Nairobi, after the town of Oltepesi, the sign board for the museum and site appears on the left. I used google maps and it gave the impression that the site is in or before Oltepesi, but it is after the town, so just keep going, you can’t miss the sign.
It is HOOOOOOOT. While I was there it was the ‘cold’ season and it was about 30 °C, so prepare yourself for some significant heat and sun….Maybe carry a hat.
At Olorgesailie Prehistoric site
When you arrive at the site, you pass through the reception area where you can pay and begin the tour. The admission rates at the time I visited were;
- Citizen Adults- 100, Children- 50
- Resident Adult- 400, Children-200
- Non-Resident Adult- 500, Children- 250
The reception area is where the museum grounds begin. Here you will see a timeline of Human evolution and collection of skull remains, based on archaeological discoveries in Kenya and Tanzania. This includes skulls and various hand tools from as far back as 3.6 million years.
It is interesting to note that Olorgesailie is ‘the most precisely dated site in Africa that preserves stone tools, animals and environmental cues of the past 1 million years. There are also many animal fossils found in this area, especially those from the mid-Pleistocene era. There was an abundance in Large Baboons and Zebras in the area between 1 Million and 700,000 years ago, many of these species became extinct about 300,000 years ago.
The Excavation site
After wandering around the reception area, a well-informed guide will take you around the different excavated areas. Here we learn that the Olorgesailie area is on the floor of the Rift Valley. About 1.2 Million years ago, earth movements created a basin here that had a fresh water lake and there is evidence of these lakes in the white silts that have remained in the area that used to be the lake beds. The lake started to disappear about 180,000 years ago and wine and water erosion began exposing fossils and evidence of past environments from the past 1 million years.
The site itself began being explored and excavated in 1943 and over the years various items have been found giving insight into the lives of the people that lived there. Olorgesailie is known as the world’s largest stone-tool factory and the only place in the world with this number of prehistoric stone tools. Some tools have been discovered due to natural erosion, apparently that’s usually the first step in excavation, then archaeologists are able to excavate further and discover the source layers where the items came from.
There is so much to see and learn at Olorgesailie. The tour took about an hour, maybe a bit longer, but not difficult at all apart from the heat.
In addition to the Museum and prehistoric site itself, there are a number of other things to do around Olorgesailie. There is the option for hiking and mountain climbing and the options include either Mt. Olorgesailie or Mt. Ol Esakut, both of which can be seen from the site.
Visitors wanting to stay overnight also have a couple of accommodation options; there is the option to camp, though based on my understanding on the day you need to carry ALL your own equipment and supplies, this includes your tent and sleeping stuff, grill and charcoal and even your drinking water. There are also bandas that you can rent; there are the standard bandas and deluxe bandas and I think they sleep two people each with no private toilets, but shared.
There is also a picnic site nearby and a baboon camp that you can visit with a guide. As a Nairobian I of course asked about security as there were no fences at all. I was informed that there has NEVER been an incident, I asked about baboon attacks, also none. So perhaps an overnight trip there is in the books for this year…
Read More: http://www.museums.or.ke/olorgesailie/