The word Paleontology refers to the study of ancient life by using the fossil remains. These fossils are the remains or traces of prehistoric living things and it is used as a window for mammalian evolution, human evolution and Paleo-environmental reconstruction.
Zinjanthropus boisei “ape-human” was discovered by Dr. Mary Leakey in Olduvai Gorge 1959.
Although the specie was too different from modern people to be the direct human ancestor but the discovery captured public interest in human evolution and put Tanzania as a special place in the world for understanding of our origin.
About the Collection
The Paleontology section holds the largest collection of vertebrate specimens in the country including some of the best hominid fossils in the world that attracts researchers from all over the world. Paleontology collecting at the Museum began around 1930's and continues today. Some specimens are very large and represent large prehistoric animals such as elephants while others represent small mammals like the rodents. The specimens are only acquired through field expeditions that are largely funded externally. The collection is taxonomically stored within sites of the same geological period in the paleontology store and some of the goes to the exhibition for the public education. Through research by various disciplines this collection helps to understand the evolutionary history, life processes of the organisms it represents and Paleo-environment in which they lived. All the specimens in the section are well documented.
Pelorovis skull and horn from Olduvai Gorge.
Our goal is to increase public and scientific understanding of the Paleontological and environmental history of Earth through the study of hominin fossils, animals and plants. In addition to performing scientific research, we conduct researches and curate fossil collections that are studied by scientists from around the country and we exhibit extraordinary fossils in the public spaces of our Museum and we help train future generations of paleontologists. Information on the collections is disseminated to the public through lectures, media, publications, exhibits, organized tours of the labs and talks for students.
Suid canine (1.3mya) from Olduvai Gorge