Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor
Date: 27 December 2012 Time: 10:03 AM ET
The controversial extinct human lineage known as "hobbits" gained a face this year, one of many projects that shed light in 2012 on the history of modern humans and their relatives. Other discoveries include the earliest known controlled use of fire and the possibility that Neanderthals or other extinct human lineages once sailed to the Mediterranean.
Mysterious fossils of what may be a previously unknown human species were uncovered in caves in China. The hominins lived some time between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago, meaning they would have shared the landscape with modern humans when China's earliest farmer were first appearing. Discovered at what is called Red Deer Cave in southwest China, the hominins have been dubbed the Red Deer Cave People. A skull of the possibly new hominin, shown here.
Here's a look at what we learned about ourselves through our ancestors this year.
We're not alone
A trove of discoveries this year revealed a host of other extinct relatives of modern humans. For instance, researchers unearthed 3.4-million-year-old fossils of a hitherto unknown species that lived about the same time and place as Australopithecus afarensis, a leading candidate for the ancestor of the human lineage. In addition, fossils between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old discovered in 2007 and 2009 in northern Kenya suggest that at least two extinct human species lived alongside Homo *****us, a direct ancestor of our species. Moreover, fossils only between 11,500 and 14,500 years old hint that a previously unknown type of human called the "Red Deer Cave People" once lived in China.