Mysterious Skull Fossils Expand Human Family Tree — But Questions Remain
The fossils from Israel hint that a previously unknown group of hominins, proposed to be the direct ancestors of Neanderthals, might have dominated life in the Levant and lived alongside Homo sapiens. Meanwhile, researchers studying an extremely well-preserved ancient human skull found in China in the 1930s have controversially classified it as a new species — dubbed Dragon Man — which might be an even closer relative to modern humans than are Neanderthals. But both findings have sparked debate among scientists. The studies are based on analyses of the size, shape and structure of fossilized bones — methods that are subject to individual judgement and interpretation. As is often the case for fossil finds, there is no DNA evidence. Separating early hominin specimens into unique species, working out if and how they interacted with others, and tracing their evolution are all difficult and contentious.