The discovery of three new fossils, unveiled today, illuminate and confirm a line of human evolution that is more complicated than scientists once thought. The groundbreaking bones, about 2 million years old and unearthed in Kenya, prove that there were at least two Homo species—in addition to Homo erectus—living simultaneously with each other before the dawn of modern Homo sapiens, reports the New York Times. “Human evolution is not this straight line it was once thought to be," says one paleoanthropologist, and East Africa “was quite a crowded place, with multiple species."
The fossils were found between 2007 and 2009 (by the mother-daughter Leakey team) and appear to hold the key to a mystery dating back to 1972, when a peculiar, unidentifiable skull, dubbed 1470, was located in the same area. The new fossils, which are remarkably similar to 1470, provide strong evidence that 1470 was not merely an odd-looking ancient human but a different offshoot of the Homo genus. (The AP notes that that the discovery by the famed Leakeys is being met with some skepticism in the field.)