September 27, 2022 | Jerry Bergman

Not Found: Human Ancestor X

After 150 years, evolutionists have still not found Ancestor X.
Some scientists openly admit this fact.



by Jerry Bergman, PhD

I have posted many articles on this website about claims that a new human ancestor has been discovered. Often, the discoverer proclaims that the new find will require rewriting the textbooks about human evolution. The field of paleoanthropology, I keep pointing out, has consisted of many problematic attempts to link humans with apes in some progressive evolutionary scenario. These attempts, furthermore, have been highly speculative, leading other paleoanthropologists to propose counterexamples they feel are better candidates. It’s a cyclical process that sounds familiar whenever a new set of bone fragments turn up. In the end, they always fail to substantiate “Ancestor X”—the supposed common ancestor of all humans.[1]

This cycle of failure was finally acknowledged in New Scientist, a leading popular science journal. Colin Barras agreed that every claimed fossil link between apes and men has failed or, at least, is very problematic and controversial. In the 3 September 2022 issue of New Scientist, Barras admitted the fact that “The identity of the species that gave rise to all humanity is one of the biggest mysteries in human evolution.”[2] The wide variety of fossils that have been found in the last century merely document that much variation has existed in humans in the past as it does today, and perhaps more variation.[3] Evolutionists are baffled by the fact that many human ancestors of modern man have existed.[4]

For as long as researchers have been finding ancient human-like fossils, one question has been nagging away in the back of their minds: how are we related to other prehistoric groups and species?…. When it comes to the big picture of human evolution, universal consensus is hard to find. However, by the final decades of the 20th century, many researchers accepted a few key points. The first was that all living people today are so genetically similar to one another that H. sapiens must have emerged no more than a few hundred thousand years ago.[5]

Readers should know that the evidence for human evolution only consists of a few hundred bone scraps whose significance is controversial.[6] Those who believe in human evolution rationalize this lack of evidence by concluding that “90% of human history seems irretrievably lost.”[7] Non-evolutionists might well conclude that it never existed.

Middle East on a globe.

Another idea often accepted uncritically by paleoanthropologists is that the first human appeared in a corner of Africa. This would explain why most of the genetic diversity that exists in our species today is largely concentrated in the African continent.[8] Not unexpectedly, though, even this claim is controversial.[9]

Bypassing the problematic evolutionary dating, one should realize that paleoanthropologists acknowledge the genetic similarity of all humans. They also acknowledge a belief that the origin of all humans was in the general area of the Middle East, which includes a corner of Africa (see Figure 1). These beliefs overlap with the Scriptural account that the first human ancestors were the Biblical Adam and Eve.

Summarizing the almost 3,000-word New Scientist article, the following points stand out:

1. Enormous disagreement exists between paleoanthropologists about which fossil is the human common ancestor, Ancestor X.

In the early 1980s, London’s Natural History Museum professor Chris Stringer believed that he had found Ancestor X.

[Stringer] spent years scrutinizing the shape of Neanderthal and H. sapiens skulls to work out what they had in common: features they had probably inherited from Ancestor X. Both had large brains, similarly shaped temporal bones – pieces of the skull on each side of the head that house the ears – and other features. And, bingo, these were also seen in a third hominin, Homo heidelbergensis.[10]

But soon afterward,

many researchers had second thoughts [about Stringer’s ancestor X claim]. Some of the best evidence about H. heidelbergensis had come from fossils found at Sima de los Huesos in Spain, and by the mid 2010s, it was clear that they actually looked more like proto-Neanderthals [than some hypothetical ancestor X].[11]

Brief quotes like these from the article show that new discoveries, instead of solving disagreements, tend to create even more disagreements. This is illustrated by the latest find, called the Harbin Skull.

Figure 2. The Harbin skull, nicknamed ‘Dragon Man,’ which evolutionists speculate “may be from a sister species to humans and Neanderthals.” From the New Scientist article by Colin Barras. Source: Xijun Ni/Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Is the Harbin Skull Ancestor X?

An ancient skull discovered in 1933 in China remained hidden until 2018, when it came into scientific hands. Called the Harbin skull, it is believed by some evolutionists to offer clues to the origin of the enigmatic Ancestor X – the alleged species that gave rise to humanity.[12] This skull, also nicknamed “Dragon Man,” is also disputed (30 Nov 2021). It adds yet another layer of debate about who was the human common ancestor. Since paleoanthropologists are not sure what ancestor X looked like, they do not know exactly what to look for! Nonetheless, several leading paleoanthropologists reasoned that

fossils similar to Harbin could help further refine our ideas about Ancestor X’s physical appearance, which might make our elusive parent species easier to recognize when we eventually find it. But on the flip side, Harbin-like fossils imply that the search might be harder than we thought, because Ancestor X could have lived almost anywhere within a truly vast geographical region. “It could have been in Africa… But it could have been in Europe – that’s where H. antecessor is – or it could have been in west Asia. It could even have been in east Asia. We just don’t know yet.[13]

The speculation continues:

H. antecessor is considered by some to be Ancestor X because it “exhibits the oldest known modern face so far found… Its delicate cheekbones and flattened features are similar to those seen in living humans and are unlike the heavily built faces of Neanderthals. Because of this, there is now a surprising hypothesis about Ancestor X: perhaps it looked … like us. “Our so-called modern face is an ancient face.”[14]

Others reject H. antecessor as Ancestor X because H. antecessor teeth were Neanderthal-like. Part of the skull encasing the brain, too, looks like the H. heidelbergensis cranium discovered in Ceprano, Italy. Most researchers now believe that H. heidelbergensis was more closely related to proto-Neanderthals than to Ancestor X. That “would make it a dead-end side branch of our family tree that has no relevance for understanding the origin of H. sapiens.”  According to this view, the fragments could not be Ancestor X fossils. Ancestor X fossils “are presumably out there somewhere, but they have yet to be discovered. The hunt goes on.”[15] Radical new theories arrive not just about human evolution but also about evolution itself.[16]

2. Major distrust exists concerning the different ethnic groups that make up today’s paleoanthropologists.

Barras acknowledged that some paleontologists “don’t really trust Asian science…. because they are biased and ethnocentric.” [17] As a result, “some Western researchers dismiss almost all scientific findings made by human evolution scientists in Asia.”[18] Sheela Athreya at Texas A&M University doesn’t believe that

all researchers of European ancestry are racist, but that racist cultural ideas may influence their work….  a few of these same researchers have been quick to criticize their colleagues in Asia and elsewhere of being under the influence of perceived cultural biases… This has discouraged collaboration and made it difficult to work out how the extraordinary fossil finds made in Asia fit into the bigger picture of human evolution.[19]

3. Large disagreements also exist about the dating of the various fossils.

For example researchers revised the estimate for when Ancestor X had walked the planet, pushing it “back to between 550,000 and 765,000 years ago.” Today, some think that even this is an underestimate. For instance, a 2019 analysis of Neanderthal and H. sapiens teeth suggested that Ancestor X was on Earth 800,000 years ago or more.[20] Many western paleoanthropologists don’t trust the dates Asian scientists have assigned to their fossils.[21]

4. Disagreement even exists about the general area where the early evolution of humans occurred.

As Barras observed, “Our species was long thought to have evolved from a small, heterogeneous population living in a tiny corner of Africa. Evidence countering this idea emerged two decades ago, but is only now being widely recognized.”[22] The reason why, explains Professor Lounès Chikhi at the University of Toulouse in France, is that “we appear to have fundamentally misunderstood the way human evolution works. … The idea humans originated from a small region [of Africa] doesn’t make much sense…. It was clear that …[this idea] was problematic at least 20 years ago.”[23]

These admissions reveal the fact that most of the fossil fragments discovered in the last century cannot be the evolutionary ancestor of humans.[24] Each past claim has been problematic, and each new example proposed, once again, requires rewriting the textbooks.


I can do no better to summarize this review than to agree with the statement by Colin Barras, the author of the article reviewed above, who says, “When it comes to the big picture of human evolution, universal consensus is hard to find.”[25] He adds, “The identity of the species that gave rise to all humanity is one of the biggest mysteries in human evolution.”[26] This is the case 150 years after Charles Darwin sent them on a hunt for the first human “evolved” parents.

What is clear from the article is that evolutionists believe humans evolved from some ape creature in spite of the evidence. Few experts agree even on the basic story. Barras interviewed the world’s leading paleoanthropologists for his New Scientist article. The fossils Barras discussed eloquently show only the physical variety that has existed in humans, which creationists call “people groups.” It was this variety that many evolutionists in the past categorized as “races,” a label based on evolutionary bias that still pervades the field today (see 9 April 2022). In a closing sidebar, Barras quoted Athreya again, who says of her colleagues, “racist cultural ideas may influence their work, if unconsciously.”


[1] Bergman, Jerry. 2021. Apes as Ancestors: Examining the Claims About Human Evolution. Tulsa, OK: Bartlett Publishing. Co-Authored with Peter Line, PhD, and Jeff Tomkins, PhD.

[2] Barras, Colin. 2022. The Search for Ancestor X. New Scientist 255(3402): 46-49, September 3.

[3] Tsakalidis, A.K. 1988. The nearest common ancestor in a dynamic tree. Acta Informatica  25:37–54.

[4] Tobias, Michael, and Jane Morrison. 2019. The Hypothetical Species: Variables of Human Evolution. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.

[5] Barras, 2022, p. 47.

[6] Bergman, et al., 2021.

[7] Wade, Nicholas. 2006. Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. New York, NY: Penguin Press, p. 1.

[8] Wade, 2006.

[9] Gibbons, Ann. 2019. Experts question study claiming to pinpoint birthplace of all humans. Science, October 28.

[10] Barras, 2022

[11] Barras, 2022, pp. 46-47.

[12] Barras, 2022, p. 47.

[13] Barras, 2022, p. 49.

[14] Barras, 2022, p. 47.

[15] Barras, 2022. p. 48

[16] Quammen, David. 2019.  The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

[17] Barras, 2022, pp. 48, 49.

[18] Barras, 2022, p. 48.

[19] Barras, 2022, p. 48.

[20] Barras, 2022, p. 47.

[21] Barras, 2022, p. 49.

[22] Barras, 2022, p. 48.

[23] Barras, 2022, p. 48.

[24] Bergman, et al., 2021.

[25] Barras, 2022, p. 46.

[26] Barras, 2022, p. 47.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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Categories: Early Man, Fossils


  • tjguy says:

    “Each past claim has been problematic, and each new example proposed, once again, requires rewriting the textbooks.”

    So with the constant need to rewrite the textbooks, what confidence can we really have that our children are being taught the facts accurately?

    I guess the textbook companies are happy. We are probably keeping them in business. No sooner is a new textbook published when something is falsified and the need to reprint it to keep it up to date arises. Must be very frustrating for evolutionists.

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