Of course, the journalists who write for the science pages have exactly the same motivation as other journalists, which is eyeballs on the page. You’ve got to have a headline with pizzazz.
But, I could live without the phrase “This could rewrite history.” I saw it today as the headline on an article about the recent discoveries at Stonehenge. Well, sure. They will certainly rewrite the history of Stonehenge. They will, almost undoubtedly, shed some new light on the inhabitants of southwestern Britain 4 or 5,000 years ago. They may even be able to decide whether it was 4 or 5,000 years ago. They may shed some light on the relationship of those people to civilizations developing elsewhere, i.e. objects may indicate more or less trade and cultural influence than we thought.
But when they say “rewrite history” I think of a discovery that proves Earth was visited by aliens in 5,000 b.c. and they left behind key agents who have been running human society ever since. If they discover that ancient Britons had television and nuclear weapons, that would rewrite history.
Finding an ancient city on Salisbury Plain is not going to rewrite history in that sense. It may rewrite the future history of British tourism, but since that isn’t history yet, it’s more of a pre-write than a re-write.
Which we’re all doing all the time any more. Every blog, every comment, every uploaded video, even the really bad ones, remains on the internet forever, helping to form the history of the emerging world of the linked human consciousness.
We are pre-writing history. Let’s make it a nice story, with a happy ending.