Skip to comments.Anthropologist resigns in 'dating disaster'
Posted on 02/19/2005 4:36:58 AM PST by ovrtaxt
A flamboyant anthropology professor, whose work had been cited as evidence Neanderthal man once lived in Northern Europe, has resigned after a German university panel ruled he fabricated data and plagiarized the works of his colleagues.
Reiner Protsch von Zieten, a Frankfurt university panel ruled, lied about the age of human skulls, dating them tens of thousands of years old, even though they were much younger, reports Deutsche Welle.
"The commission finds that Prof. Protsch has forged and manipulated scientific facts over the past 30 years," the university said of the widely recognized expert in carbon data in a prepared statement.
Protsch's work first came under suspicion last year during a routine investigation of German prehistoric remains by two other anthropologists.
"We had decided to subject many of these finds to modern techniques to check their authenticity so we sent them to Oxford [University] for testing," one of the researchers told The Sunday Telegraph. "It was a routine examination and in no way an attempt to discredit Prof. von Zieten." In their report, they called Protsch's 30 years of work a "dating disaster."
Among their findings was an age of only 3,300 years for the female "Bischof-Speyer" skeleton, found with unusually good teeth in Northern Germany, that Protsch dated to 21,300 years.
Another dating error was identified for a skull found near Paderborn, Germany, that Protsch dated at 27,400 years old. It was believed to be the oldest human remain found in the region until the Oxford investigations indicated it belonged to an elderly man who died in 1750.
The Herne anthropological museum, which owned the Paderborn skull, did its own tests following the unsettling results. "We had the skull cut open and it still smelt," said the museum's director. "We are naturally very disappointed."
Protsch, known for his love of Cuban cigars and Porsches, did not comment on the commission's findings, but in January he told the Frankfurter Neue Presse, "This was a court of inquisition. They don't have a single piece of hard evidence against me."
The fallout from Protsch's false dating of northern European bone finds is only beginning.
Chris Stringer, a Stone Age specialist and head of human origins at London's Natural History Museum, said: "What was considered a major piece of evidence showing that the Neanderthals once lived in northern Europe has fallen by the wayside. We are having to rewrite prehistory."
"Anthropology now has to revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 B.C.," added Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the University of Greifswald.
Frankfurt University's president, Rudolf Steinberg, apologized for the university's failure to curb Protsch's misconduct for decades. "A lot of people looked the other way," he said.
Should never have agreed to appear on "Blind Date".
Maybe I have a sick sense of humor but there is something strangely funny about that statement.
Funny goings on ping.
Professor Zeiten sounds just like the guy to help Ward Churchill validate his claims to being a Cherokee.
So he plagarized fabricated data?
Of course, I've fabricated data on a few of my first dates.
Time to switch specialties. He can start writing about firearms history for HCI.
Sounds like a case of willful, active ignorance to me.
"So he plagarized fabricated data?"
Make sure you cheat off the smart kids.
Isn't there a major problem w/ the climate around Zeiten in that he was able to pass off the skulls of modern man as Neanderthal? I'm not an expert & I probably wouldn't know the difference, but I would think that other anthropologists should have raised some questions long ago. At least in the one case, the skull was intact--that is, not just a couple of little pieces of bone.
I'm not sure I understand how his falsifying the age of modern skulls could have any bearing on whether or not Neanderthals lived in northern europe. These seem unrelated.
So what can you say? he's an anthro.
Did you have to dig up your finds before you could date them?
I'd begin by nominating Herr Protsch and Psycho-Ward Churchill.
I once noticed a classmate trying to copy my test answers,so I shifted myself to allow him a better look at my answers;after he finished I changed mine to the correct answers,don't know if he ever figured out what happened.
Yeah, I dont get the connection either. If the fossil remains of Neanderthal are found in Euorpe, how can it not be that they weren't native to there?
As far as the fraud-aspect, that is an all-too-familiar theme in human anthropology. Personally, I think it would be well-served to junk all the presuppositions and start from scratch.
One gets the idea this guy represents the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
There was an article in a news magazine several years ago.
The story was about how there were two groups of scientists were in disagreement as to the age of "Lucy", the name given to fossilized remains of a female human.
The disagreement was over many hundreds of thousands years in age of the fossil. The title of the article was:
"Problems In Dating Older Women."
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