Over the last few days I’ve been getting regular emails alerting me to trending stories about an astounding archaeological discovery.
According to reports, German scientists had found teeth that belonged to a human-like species dating back almost 10 million years – much older than any similar remains found elsewhere in the world. Today’s example of such a story from a dubious viral site is below:
As a reporter who covers Germany and regularly writes about archaeology, I obviously had to check this out.
Last week, when the first reports surfaced in German media (and were quickly picked up by international outlets thanks to an English-language piece by Deutsche Welle – http://bit.ly/2xbjXcI ) I reached out to a couple of paleontologists to find out what they made of this.
Their answer: it’s nonsense.
As an expert from Germany’s Max Planck Institute _ one of the world’s top academic institutions _ explained, these teeth likely belong to a great ape (homin-ID). They were fairly common across Europe even 12 million years ago and finding evidence of their presence in southwest Germany isn’t unexpected.
There’s no evidence to back up the Mainz Museum of Natural History’s claim that they’ve discovered sensational new homin-IN fossils, the expert said. One of the big giveaways is the fact that there’s been no peer-reviewed paper on this find so far, he added.
I expect to see a few more trending stories about this ‘discovery’ in the next few weeks. But I’m not expecting to write any more than this post about it.
Recently I was checking what news from Germany is going viral (it’s part of my job) and I noticed that one of the top ten stories involved an elderly man who had found his long-lost wedding ring wrapped around a carrot grown in his garden.
What actually happened is that the Reddit user and the viral sites stole an AP story from early November, removed any attribution to AP (because they don’t pay for our service) and tried to pass the image and information off as their own or some third party’s.
Here’s the original story: http://metro.co.uk/2016/11/10/man-finds-his-lost-wedding-ring-growing-on-a-carrot-6249094/
Yes, it’s just a story about a ring on a carrot. But this kind of sneaky lifting of stories earns ripoff viral sites like Buzz Flare a few dollars that deserve to go to journalists who actually wrote the story in the first place.