Mumba Rockshelter

Mumba Höhle - Mumba Rock Shelter - Mumba Cave

Useful Information

Location: Near the shore of Lake Eyasi, 65 km south of Olduvai Gorge, Rift Valley.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: Speleologyerosional cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=1,100 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Günter Bräuer (1980): Human skeletal remains from Mumba Rock Shelter, Northern Tanzania, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 52(1):71-84. Bookonline
M. J. Mehlman (1979): Mumba-Höhle Revisited: The Relevance of a Forgotten Excavation to Some Current Issues in East African Prehistory, World Archaeology 11(1) pp 80-94. BookJSTOR: World Archaeology, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Jun., 1979), pp. 80-94
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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29-AUG-1934 discovered by Margit Kohl-Larsen.
20-JAN-1938 to 25-AUG-1938 excavated by Margit Kohl-Larsen.


The Mumba Höhle is an African rock shelter with a German name, often misspelled Mumba Hohle. The reason is simple: it was first excavated by the German couple Margit and Ludwig Kohl-Larsen in the 1930s. They published their findings in a German paper where they called the place Mumba Höhle.

The site contains a sediment which is about nine meters thick and full of archaeological remains. The contents were dated between Middle ArchaeologyPaleolithic and Late ArchaeologyNeolithic. Important is Bed V-VI dated to the Middle to Late Paleolithic (31,000 years BP). Findings include Levallois flakes, and Stillbay and Howiesons Poort artifacts. There were endscrapers, backed knives, and a palette with ochre. Animal remains include zebra, warthog, greater kudu, buffalo and tortoise. Ten human burials were probably the most important discovery.

During the 1930s Margit and Ludwig Kohl-Larsen directed large scale archaeological field work in the Lake Eyasi basin of northern Tanzania. Margit Kohl-Larsen spent eight months in 1938 to excavate the Mumba Rock Shelter. This important excavation yielded human skeletal remains of 18 individuals. They discovered the Eyasi and Garusi hominids.

The Mumba Rock Shelter is what is generally called a shelter or abri, not a true cave. The cliff face has an overhang of 9 m which provided some protection for early humans and for the sediments with the human remains. It is located some 3 km from the Eyasi Lake at an altitude of 1,100 m asl. The distance depends on the changes of the water level of the lake. There has been a time since the cave is used by humans, when the water level of the lake raised enough to reach the cave. There are levels with lake sediments between the archaeological relevant layers. The rock of the shelter is insoluble gneis, which normally does not contain caves. The cave is probably a result of the erosion of the lake. Actually there are four similar caves in theis area.