From Zach Zorich at Archaeology:
The Jebel Irhoud hominins apparently lived 350,000 years after Neanderthals and Homo sapiens last shared a common ancestor, long enough for the two lineages to develop some obvious differences. The people of Jebel Irhoud had flat and short faces like modern humans, but their brains were more elongated and their teeth much larger. Their brow ridges were also more prominent than those of humans living today, but not as heavy as those of Neanderthals. More.
From Ann Gibbon at Science, we learn,
“This stuff is a time and a half older than anything else put forward as H. sapiens,” says paleoanthropologist John Fleagle of the State University of New York in Stony Brook.
The discoveries, reported in Nature, suggest that our species came into the world face-first, evolving modern facial traits while the back of the skull remained elongated like those of archaic humans. More.
The Moroccan site of Jebel Irhoud has been well known since the 1960s for its human fossils and for its Middle Stone Age artefacts. However, the interpretation of the Irhoud hominins has long been complicated by persistent uncertainties surrounding their geological age. The new excavation project, which began in 2004, resulted in the discovery of new Homo sapiens fossils in situ, increasing their number from six to 22. These finds confirm the importance of Jebel Irhoud as the oldest and richest African Middle Stone Age hominin site documenting an early stage of our species. The fossil remains from Jebel Irhoud comprise skulls, teeth, and long bones of at least five individuals. To provide a precise chronology for these finds, researchers used the thermoluminescence dating method on heated flints found in the same deposits. These flints yielded an age of approximately 300 thousand years ago and, therefore, push back the origins of our species by one hundred thousand years.More.
As the year draws to a close, this seems like a big story.
Still looking for that definitive missing link..
See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents