Serious concerns have surfaced about three research papers claiming evidence for one of the earliest human occupations of Europe.The bioRxiv paper is available from the site and, since it is a preprint server, is accessible to anyone wishing to read the story. Here is the bombshell from the paper:
In an extraordinary letter posted to the bioRxiv.org preprint server on 31 October1, archaeologists allege that the papers, published in 2013, 2016 and 2017, included material of questionable provenance, and that results reported in the 2016 paper were based on at least one stolen bone. Editors at the journals concerned are publishing expressions of concern about the papers.
A series of recent papers on the Early Pleistocene palaeontological site of Untermassfeld (Germany) makes claims that are of great interest for studies of earliest Europe and are at odds with the described pattern: the papers suggest that Untermassfeld has yielded stone tools and humanly modified faunal remains, evidence for a one million years old hominin presence in European continental mid-latitudes, and additional evidence that hominins were well-established in Europe already around that time period. Here we evaluate these claims and demonstrate that these studies are severely flawed in terms of data on provenance of the materials studied and in the interpretation of faunal remains and lithics as testifying to a hominin presence at the site. In actual fact any reference to the Untermassfeld site as an archaeological one is unwarranted.The site is said to have been occupied beginning around a million years ago, which was an astounding claim when it was made. Critical, however, is that, despite the wealth of archaeological, taphonomic, faunal and floral evidence from the site, there have never been any hominin remains found.
The article is lengthy but is a fascinating account of a palaeontological mystery and sleuthing. If the accusations are true, it is blow for the study of early human European occupation and puts a stain on the whole proceedings.