There’s a fossilized left partial maxilla with some teeth in it that has been identified as a specimen of Homo sapiens. If that species identification is correct, then it’s the earliest-identified fossil of our species found outside of Africa. It got press coverage today for a paper that has a posted publication date of tomorrow but it’s already published today.

The paper itself

It’s linked up above, it’s a Science paper, that’s one of the two top journals all scientists want to publish in as many times as possible in order to get good Science Publication scores which look good on one’s résumé, so congratulations to all of the authors. Science also put together its own perspective piece on the article

The earliest press coverage

The first thing that got released was a press release written by (someone at) Binghamton University (aka the State University of New York at Binghamton). I assume that Binghamton University put out the press release because one of their staff (Rolf Quam) is a coauthor on the paper and that coauthor is the only one with a department affiliation in the US. For a press release being released during the US’s work hours, it makes sense to work with a university that is based in the US. This release is directly published by EurekAlert and Phys.org.

Two age ranges reveal two chains of meme migration

One interesting divergence between the press release and the Science paper is that they use different age ranges. The press release refers to the fossil as being between

between 175,000-200,000 years old

Whereas the Science paper mentions that the fossil is

dated to 177,000 to 194,000 years ago

And there isn’t a lot of difference between those two age ranges as far as fossil hominin studies go, but the two age ranges show which scientific journalism about the fossil is based on the Science paper and which is based on a press release published by a university.

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Three examples based on the Science paper

The Conversation has an article written by Rolf Quam. I strongly recommend reading this article since it’s written by one of the actual scientists because The Conversation thinks that’s what science communication is supposed to be.

CNN’s online coverage

The Guardian’s online coverage

Three examples based on the press release

USA Today’s online coverage

Newsweek’s online coverage

Gizmodo’s coverage

Conclusions

History.com quoted the press release but cited it. Although an online writer doesn’t need to cite a press release, it seems like a good idea if exact quotes and significant amounts of paraphrase happen from the press release. That press release was written by some person, employed at some place, and it costs zero dollars to provide a link.

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Addendum

Press release:

The finding suggests that modern humans left the continent at least 50,000 years earlier than previously thought.

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Mystery website:

suggesting humans left Africa far earlier than previously thought.

Press release:

The fossil, an upper jawbone with several teeth, was found at a site called Misliya Cave in Israel, one of several prehistoric cave sites located on Mount Carmel.

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Mystery website:

The fossil was found in Israel’s Misilya Cave [sic], one of several prehistoric cave sites on Mount Carmel.

Press release:

Researchers analyzed the fossil remains relying on microCT scans and 3D virtual models and compared it with other hominin fossils from Africa, Europe and Asia.

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Mystery website:

MicroCT scans and virtual 3D models were used to compare the fossil to other hominid fossils from Africa, Europe, and Asia.