Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Toothless wonder? Paper on “oldest human fossil in Europe” temporarily removed from journal’s site

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j human evolutionA paper about a high-profile human fossil has been mysteriously removed from the journal that published it just two weeks ago.

Here’s the notice for “The oldest human fossil in Europe dated to ca. 1.4 Ma at Orce (Spain),” originally published on March 5:

The publisher regrets that this article has been temporarily removed. A replacement will appear as soon as possible in which the reason for the removal of the article will be specified, or the article will be reinstated.

The full Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal can be found at http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy.

Either we’ll learn why the study was removed, or the journal will just reinstate it? This all seems a bit odd. We’ve asked the editors, and Elsevier, for more information, and will update with anything we learn.

Meanwhile, the paper was released with a great deal of fanfare. A press release (in Spanish) from IPHES ICREA, the home institution of two of the authors,  claimed that the 1.4-million-year-old fossil tooth became “the oldest human remains in Western Europe” and suggests that humans arrived in mainland Europe 200,000 years before anyone thought. The remains found at Orce, we understand, have been the source of controversy for decades.

Update, 9 p.m. Eastern, 3/21/13: Elseviertells us that the withdrawal resulted from a dispute with another team of authors who were unhappy their work wasn’t cited.

Written by Ivan Oransky

March 19th, 2013 at 2:21 pm

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