Bed I in Olduvai Gorge spans the interval from about 1.7 to 2.0 m.y.a., and all evidences of hominid activity at Olduvai are within the latter half of this period. Bed I was deposited in a closed basin approximately 25 km in average diameter, and it can be subdivided into five lithologically different but partly time-equivalent rock assemblages, or lithologic facies, each of which was deposited in the same geographic environment or closely related series of environments. These lithofacies comprise lake deposits, lake-margin deposits, alluvial-fan deposits, alluvial-plain deposits, and lava flows.
Alluvial-plain deposits form the lowermost part of Bed I, and they presumably interfinger northeastward with lake deposits in an area not now exposed. Discharge of the lavas diplaced the lake westward to a position it occupied through the latter half of the deposition of Bed I. The lake fluctuated greatly in salinity, level, and extent, and at times of low level it was highly saline and generally ranged between 7 and 10 km in average diameter. At times of high level it was as much as 15 km in diameter and was relatively fresh, at least along its southeastern margin. The lake-margin deposits accumulated on the zone of relatively flat terrain that was flooded at times of high level. Lake-margin deposits interfinger eastward with deposits of an alluvial fan of pyroclastic materials produced in an explosive phase of the volcano Olmoti. The climate at the time of Bed I was relatively dry although somewhat wetter than the present climate in the same region today.