Nestled in a cave near Sidi Moktar which is about 62 miles west of Marrakesh in Morocco seven significant hominid fossils have been found since 1991 which have been dated at about 160 kya. The cave is known as the Jebel Irhoud site. These fossil remains consist of two adult skulls designated as Irhoud 1 and 2. A child’s mandible has also been found at this site (Irhoud 3) along with a child’s humerus (Irhoud 4). The significance of these fossil remains was not realized fully until 2007. Originally, they were classified as belonging to North African Neanderthals but they have now been reclassified as early AMH (anatomically modern humans).
These skulls are similar to those found in Israel, namely, the fossil remains of Qafzeh-Skhul early modern humans which were found in Lower Galilee (Qahzeh) and on the slopes of Mt Carmel (Skhul). The Skhul remains are believed to be those of a descendant of H. heidelbergensis known as “Paleoanthropus palestinensis.” These skulls are dated at 80-120 kyr. The skull known as Skhul 5 was assumed to be an “advanced Neanderthal” but today is classed as modern human. In other words, this skull likely is from the offspring of a modern human, Neanderthal hybrid.
The Irhoud 1 skull from Morocco has some interesting features. Most significant are the large eye orbits and browridge. It also looks as it may have had a jutting mouth region and in my opinion this skull is the result of H.erectus-modern human interbreeding (see pics below).
In the views of the Irhoud 1 skull above notice the large eye orbits and heavy browridge. Also of significance is the low and slopping forehead and the occipital bun at the back of the skull. To me this skull has these notable features which are from H. erectus but it also has some modern features and that is why I believe it to be a hybrid. I do not see these skulls as “mysteries” at all but as H. erectus/modern human hybrids.
Turning now to Nigeria and the “mysterious” Iwo Eleru skull (found in 1965) this skull dates to 13 kya BUT it has some more primitive features like those seen in the Laetoli skull found by Mary Leakey in 1976 in Tanzania and dated at around 120 kya. What the Eleru skull, then, suggests is that 13 kya there were humans with primitive skull features still living in West Africa which is much more recent than most researcher thought (see PLOS One article link below).
The Eleru Skull was found in 1965 by Professor Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum and Professor Katerina Harvati of the University of Tubingen, Germany. Dated as being 13 kyr the skull and associated skeleton didn’t look like modern humans living in West Africa today. Stringer believes this shows modern humans coexisted with more archaic humans over the past 200,000 years. He suggests the skull may indicate interbreeding between a modern human and a more archaic species (H. erectus?). Regarding this skull, Stringer has said,
“The mixed features of Iwo Eleru may reflect interbreeding between primitive and modern forms of Homo sapiens in that continent……It shows that the evolution of modern humans in Africa was a more complex process than many of us believed, and that populations of archaic hominins or their genes survived in Africa much later than previously thought.”
We know that the Neanderthals were around until about 40-30 kya. We also know that H. floresiensis was around until about 50-40 kya and possibly until just 17 kya. The Denisovans also were around to about 30-50 kya. Keep in mind that modern humans are thought to have come upon the scene around 200 kya. In fact, the “norm” seems to have been that several species of ancient human ancestors coexisted at the same time for varying periods of time. “Evolution” is not a ladder of progression but is more like a twisted bush with progress and degeneration, breeding, interbreeding, and retro-breeding.
The Iwo Eleru skull has a significant browridge and the skull is also long and broad across the base. It does not resemble any more recent skulls found in Africa. Stringer regards it as an archaic modern human (H. sapien). I regard it as an erectus-modern hybrid.
So the West African skull is not a “mystery” in my mind. It is a hybrid’s skull and it is proof that it was alive 13 kya which is pretty recent.