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Neanderthal Hoax Exposed
image A sensational archaeological hoax has been exposed in Germany. It's been revealed that Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten, a professor at a University in Frankfurt, has been systematically lying about the ages of skulls he found, claiming that they were far older than they actually were. In one instance he said that a skull was 21,300-years-old, although it was only 1300-years-old. As the Guardian reports:

"Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago," said Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax. "Prof Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish."

Apparently Prof. Protsch began his career as a forger when he returned from studying in America decades ago and discovered that he was unable to work a carbon-dating machine. So he just started making up the ages of things.
Science
Posted by The Curator on Mon Feb 21, 2005


Oh great, more fuel for the creationists. Thanks for nothing, von Zieten.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  01:25 AM
...hmm...he lied. Big Surprise. I'm not fueled...just intrigued.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  09:17 AM
The guy also had secret familial ties to the Nazis, raising the possibility that he was a Christian cultist, perhaps even a closet-creationist. It's another one of those difficult truths we don't like to face: Nazis considered themselves Christians.
Posted by all-seeing eye dog  in  florida  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  11:16 AM
"Considered" and being are 2 different things.

I consider myself blonde...but I'm not really. wink
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  01:19 PM
Couldn't agree with you more, Maegan... But it really bothers me that so many people are going around exaggerating differences between Christians and non-Christians these days (or making claims on behalf of all Christiandom or all secular-dom, or whatever)... Especially when the gaps between what different camps of Christians believe are often as significant, if not more so, than the gaps between what Christians and non-Christians believe (did you know, for instance, that there are so-called Christians who actually believe Jesus was Satan?). Unfortunately, people get to call themselves whatever they like and can get away with it as long as no one with more political or social muscle challenges them. The same way the Nazis called themselves the "National Socialist Workers Party," despite being virulently opposed to socialism in practice...
Posted by all-seeing eye dog  in  florida  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  03:35 PM
So how significant is this really? There's one quote saying, "We'll have to rewrite the textbooks," but knowing nothing about archaeology I can't tell - how important a figure in the field is this Professor, and were the results he faked considered definitive or were they already controversial?

Also, if he were a closet creationist, surely he'd have been faking results showing that humans are a *young* species, not an old one? If the point were to mislead the entire scientific establishment and then be found out, he'd have been willing to sacrifice an awful lot for the creationist cause. I doubt he's involved anyway, as I'm under the impression creationism mainly a hobby-horse of American branches of Christianity. http://www.geocities.com/fedor_steeman/deutschland.html seems to back me up on this (top Google hit for "germany creationism" without quotes).
Posted by Joe Mason  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  04:24 PM
Joe, I think it's pretty significant. I took an anthropology class at my university about 1.5 years ago, and we clearly learned that "modern humans and Neanderthals had coexisted". We even learned about how there is evidence that the two different cultures came in contact with each other. We learned of a pretty well accepted, though new, theory of how modern humans and Neanderthals existed in the same time period, but the Neanderthals, which were not nearly as smart as the modern humans, couldn't compete with the competition for resources and died out. So essentially, this theory says that Neanderthals are not even ancestors of modern humans. The fact that all these theories probably came from this one man who is apparently a chronic liar means basically that a lot of what I learned in my anthropology class is bogus. If these theories made it into mainstream scientific thinking, then it is probably incredibly significant that they were all faked.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  05:28 PM
Oh, great. Next they'll say that the case for Homo Erectus won't stand up... "Lucy is The Guy who died once..." That's a Leakey arguement. While I was out, did Neander Thal?
Posted by Raoul  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  05:46 PM
Did you hear about the blackbird who started his own glossy periodical? It's called the Crow Mag. What do you do if Moe Sapiens gets insecure? You Ho Moe Sapiens. It's the right thing to do.
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  05:51 PM
As I remember hearing/reading/seeing some time ago the present (now no-longer present) theory was that the two branches of hominids co-existed while the ice age was dying out but that the Neanderthals were too adapted to the conditions and modern humans were generalist enough to adapt to the new conditions as required. There could easily have been enough contact to allow for inter-breeding if possible and modern Europeans and their descendants in other parts of the world have some Neanderthal genes. When I was going to school all those many years ago the theory was that the two groups of hominids competed and the Neanderthals lost the "war" very quickly, so no chance for interbreeding.

I have two complaints about this discovery. First, it gives ammunition to those wanting to discredit science as a way of thought. And second, all the good (bad) jokes were taken before I read about it.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  06:52 PM
Another thought came to me as I was looking at the story agian. Thsi guy NEVER learned how to operate a carbon-dating machine? Was he so insecure that he couldn't ask for a quick course? Or maybe there is something missing here?
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  06:55 PM
Dear Razula,

I'm not proclaiming to be all-knowing here or anything... but, my degree is in Biology (Ball State University 1995-2001) and anthropology was one thing I couldn't get enough of during my studies. To the point that if classes didn't fit the "required" role I would take them as electives. I am pretty sure that somewhere along the line you have become confused about what you were taught. Maybe not though, just guessing here. First we need to remember that MOST of what we're taught involves theories. Yes, some are more excepted than others which leads people to believe them lock, stock, and barrel, but in the end they're just theories. Some are more researched, testable, and make more sense (i.e. Evolution vs. DNA perfection) but never-the-less they are theories. In spite of all this information... in all my studies I was never taught that modern humans (homo sapiens) evolved from Neanderthals. I was taught that the theory was that modern human and neanderthals shared a common ancestor, which is vastly different than saying that one evolved from the other... so don't immediately start thinking that your anthropology class was a total waste. It wasn't if merely for the fact that it helped teach you how to think, analyze, and discuss as a means of coming by knowledge. smile
Posted by Mark-N-Jen  in  Midwest USA  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:02 PM
all-seeing eye dog said ;

"Couldn't agree with you more, Maegan... But it really bothers me that so many people are going around exaggerating differences between Christians and non-Christians these days (or making claims on behalf of all Christiandom or all secular-dom, or whatever)..."

If you were referring to my first comment, I was speaking about creationists, not christians, as all christians are not creationists. If you weren't referring to me, well then never mind.

Razela said;

"Joe, I think it's pretty significant...If these theories made it into mainstream scientific thinking, then it is probably incredibly significant that they were all faked."

This is my fear. The fact that some scientists make mistakes or, as in this case, commit outright fraud, does not diminish the overwhelming evidence (both fossile and living) that clearly demonstrates the mechanism of natural selection. Unfortunately, creationists will (as they have always done) use this as the example to assert that there is no evidence at all.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:14 PM
Very good point Mark. First of all, there is a good chance I don't remember anything correctly since it was my one and only anthropology class and it wasn't that recently that I took it. Actually, I really enjoyed my anthropology class and considered changing my major for awhile until I decided that I would probably go crazy in labs.

I just find it very upsetting when "scientists" fake their work for their own purposes. Science, when not in its applied form, is very much for the sake of knowledge itself. For a scientist to actually fake his/her findings and manipulate knowledge for his/her own benefit is a very sneaky and downright cruel thing to do. I wonder if Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten or whatever his real name is realized the extent of damage he would do to the body of knowledge in his field.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:21 PM
One of my pet peeves is when people say that humans evolved from apes. It always provokes me to pipe up with the 'No, they share a common ancestor' line.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:22 PM
Mark-N-Jen said,

" I was never taught that modern humans (homo sapiens) evolved from Neanderthals."

I don't think she ment to imply that. She said;

"(W)e clearly learned that "modern humans and Neanderthals had coexisted". We even learned about how there is evidence that the two different cultures came in contact with each other."

which is significant.

At first I thought you were serious about the 'DNA perfection'. This would have been a longer post. LOL
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:24 PM
Dear JoeSixpack,

Please don't take my reply the wrong way as you're one of my favorites among the regulars here... I didn't mean to imply that I knew exactly what he/she meant by that post just that they shouldn't let one charlatan ruin their whole view of anthropology and the classes they took relating to that subject. And yes, like you I did indeed read and understand those parts of the post but... immediately following those parts you quoted was this part...

So essentially, this theory says that Neanderthals are not even ancestors of modern humans. The fact that all these theories probably came from this one man who is apparently a chronic liar means basically that a lot of what I learned in my anthropology class is bogus.

smile Just trying to encourage thinking without letting some boob of a scientist ruin it for an impressionable mind smile Because as you know, like a sixpack, a mind is a terrible thing to waste! smile
Posted by Mark-N-Jen  in  Midwest USA  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:40 PM
Also Joe,

When mentioning the Evolution vs. DNA perfection what I was trying to do was show what a "good" theory would be versus what a "stupid" theory would be... highly recognizable to most... however, in essence they are of the same breed... theories. Perhaps I could have stated my point better but then public speaking was never my favorite... C's get degrees! smile
Posted by Mark-N-Jen  in  Midwest USA  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:45 PM
Mark-N-Jen said Razela said wink

"So essentially, this theory says that Neanderthals are not even ancestors of modern humans. The fact that all these theories probably came from this one man who is apparently a chronic liar means basically that a lot of what I learned in my anthropology class is bogus."

Doh! I guess I didn't read as closely as I should've. Sorry. Now, back to that sixer...
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  07:49 PM
Mark-N-Jen said;

"When mentioning the Evolution vs. DNA perfection what I was trying to do was show what a "good" theory would be versus what a "stupid" theory..."

LOL, when I first read it i was stuned, but when I saw who it was that wrote it I realized what you meant. Your point was well made.
Posted by JoeSixpack  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  08:36 PM
Mark --> It's nice to see you are so passionate about something that you get worried that I may possibly get turned away from pursuing the subject further =) hehe, I'll take that to heart, promise
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Mon Feb 21, 2005  at  10:19 PM
...some of the posts sort of sound like a Jean Auel book. wink

And in reply to an earlier post (geez, how did I miss those??)...I'm not trying to say who is and who is not a Christian. Only God & the individual can do that.

I like this "overwhelming evidence" idea. It's cute. People give you a lot of "facts" and it overwhelms you. It's okay. Take it one day at a time, you'll get through it.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Tue Feb 22, 2005  at  07:06 AM
It seems that the ol professor's ideas never got into de mainstream -- there was a controversy about human/neanderthal interbreeding, for instance, with contradictory data from here and there, genetics and fossil dating disagreeing. Perhaps the fake datings will explain why the data was contradictory.

Here, an article from "Nature" (in 2004):

Anthropologist turns heads with mystery dates

Munich - A German anthropologist is facing accusations of misconduct from the University of Frankfurt, after concerns came to light about his research and apparent attempts to sell university property.

According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Reiner Protsch von Zieten carbon-dated several human skulls from Germany and found them to be up to 30,000 years old. Other labs date the bones at just 7,000
Posted by Carlos  in  Brazil  on  Tue Feb 22, 2005  at  02:10 PM
Aha! So maybe he was a secret Nazi... See, the Nazis had a fairly elaborate (if highly specious) system of alternative beliefs surrounding human evolution (you know, the whole master race thing). My BS theory for the day: Von Zieten's findings were falsified to lend support to the Nazi's unique pseudo-scientific evolutionary theories.
Posted by all-seeing eye dog  in  florida  on  Tue Feb 22, 2005  at  02:58 PM
LOL

Is it my imagination, or is the entire EducationGuardian website <http://education.guardian.co.uk> a thoroughgoing hoax? I'm reading some of the stuff there and trying very hard to keep from busting a gut.
Posted by Gerry  in  Boise ID  on  Sat Mar 26, 2005  at  05:13 PM
Me again. I decided to do a search on this subject....

Skeptic's Dictionary--http://skepdic.com/protsch.html

Archaeo News--http://www.stonepages.com/news/archives/001160.html

I'd like to call everyone's attention to several points that are apparent about this issue. First, it was scientists themselves who turned up this fraud. Second, it is scientists themselves who are publicizing this fraud. Third, the evils that this man is guilty of do not negate literally decades of anthropological and archaeological work by other (real) scientists.

The history of science is, sadly, replete with similar examples of shoddy research, poor methodology, and, as in Protch's case, outright fraud. But guess what? Science is still the best tool we have for testing claims. Science is self-correcting. And science is still here. Before anyone falls into the trap of crowing about the great victory of the forces of 'truth,' discovering that certain data--and the resulting conclusions--were faked doesn't make cretinist mythology true. It simply means that real scientists will have to keep checking researchers' claims. Generally they do. Sometimes however, bogus claims get by. That's what happened here.

Science has survived these types of assaults on it's veracity before. It will survive this one. And researchers will learn to be a little more careful in the future.
Posted by Gerry  in  Boise ID  on  Sat Mar 26, 2005  at  06:26 PM
"...archaeological work by other (real) scientists." - Gerry

He is a real scientist though, he just happens to be a lying scumbag scientist.

I agree, though. It would be like saying because one person makes a false statement on the internet that ALL statements on the internat are false, or saying that one man's claim to the discovery of a new element, when proven false, proves that no elements have been discovered.

Faulty reasoning fits right in with the creation theory. Sometimes, though, it also fits right in with the evolution theory. The big thing to remember, though is that both of these things have the word THEORY in them.

Neither one has been conclusively proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that is why the word theory is still attached. Only one can have the word theory stricken from it, if either one ever can.

I know where my money lies.
Posted by Rod  in  the land of smarties.  on  Sat Mar 26, 2005  at  06:48 PM
<The big thing to remember, though is that both of these things have the word THEORY in them.--Rod>

There's a problem with that observation. In common, everyday English, the word "theory" means a guess. To a scientist, however, a theory is a systematic and orderly explanation of observed data, usually verified by observation. In that respect, the theories of evolution (and there are many) fit the definition. "Scientific" cretinism, however, does not. A misconception that many people have is that Darwin "invented" evolution. He did nothing of the sort. He simply offered AN explanation of something that many scientists had recognized for hundreds of years. Cretinism, on the other hand, explains nothing. It's a reaction to a world view that cretinists--almost exclusively fundagelical christians--find anathema. If the universe, the Solar System, Earth, life, even mankind, evolved, there could have been no place for special creation. With no special creation, there could have been no representative sinner (Adam), hence no representative savior (Christ). In addition, if mankind is imperfect and "sinful," there could be only one possible explanation for that flawed nature--God made us that way. Can't allow that now, can we? It's simply easier for cretinists to force the data to fit the "theory" rather than force the theory to fit the data.

The difference between real science and cretinist science is in the explanations that each offers up for the observed data. A scientist might say for example,
Posted by Gerry  in  Boise ID  on  Mon Mar 28, 2005  at  12:06 AM
cretinism:

Noun
A congenital condition caused by a deficiency of thyroid hormone during prenatal development and characterized in childhood by dwarfed stature, mental retardation, dystrophy of the bones, and a low basal metabolism.
smile

I think you meant Creationism. You know, creation-ism? I'm curious as to how you got that spelling mixed up.
Did Word auto-correct it?
Posted by Citizen Premier  in  spite of public outcry  on  Mon Mar 28, 2005  at  01:08 AM
"I think you meant Creationism. You know, creation-ism? I'm curious as to how you got that spelling mixed up."--Citizen Premier.

It was intentional. In the case of "Cretinists," the part of the definition referring to mental retardation seems to apply. grin
Posted by Gerry  in  Boise ID  on  Mon Mar 28, 2005  at  02:48 AM
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