The Skull in the Rock is a nonfiction account of how 9-year-old Matthew Berger, son of paleoanthropologist Dr. Lee Berger, discovered a human fossil while on a routine dig with his father. The fossil Matthew found, however, was anything but routine–it turned out to be part of a skeleton that, according to Dr. Berger, “may rewrite the story of human evolution.” Matthew’s fossil, and the skeleton it belongs to, represent a never-before-discovered species of human ancestors, the sediba, that are changing the ways scientists think about our history.
The Skull in the Rock discusses how Matthew and his father found the fossil (thanks, in part, to Google Earth), how they determined its age using advanced X-ray technology, and why the fossil is so important to other scientists. Some of the details are pretty technical, but never boring. The science is explained in such a way that readers as young as fifth grade will understand the concepts and find them interesting; the book reads more like a story than many other nonfiction books do. Full-color photographs on nearly every page that illustrate some of the more complex ideas.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I initially picked up The Skull in the Rock thinking I would just flip through, see a few pictures, and put it down after a minute or two. Instead, I found myself fascinated by Matthew and Lee Berger’s story, and the impact their discovery has. It almost made me want to buy an Indiana Jones hat and start digging for fossils in my own backyard! Readers in fifth through eighth grade who enjoy archaeology, dinosaurs, fossils, and ancient history will love it!