Who was behind the 1912 Piltdown Man hoax ?
By T.K. Randall
August 11, 2016 · 11 comments
Piltdown Man fascinated palaeontologists when it was first revealed. Image Credit: PD - John Cooke
The man responsible for the infamous hoaxed skull has finally been exposed more than 100 years later.
A fossil primate skull hailed as the 'missing link' between modern man and our primate ancestors, Piltdown Man generated much excitement when it was first unveiled in London back in 1912.
Discovered in Sussex, the skull exhibited a remarkable combination of features from both man and ape such as a chimp-like jaw and a set of teeth which seemed both human and ape-like.
The reason for this however would soon become clear - the entire thing was a hoax.
By 1953 scientists had determined that the skull was actually a combination of human and orangutan bones dating back only a few centuries.
Whoever was responsible had gone to extreme lengths to make it seem convincing, even going as far as to artificially age the fossil fragments by meticulously filing them and staining them with acid.
The fossil was described as "so entirely unscrupulous and inexplicable as to find no parallel in the history of paleontological discover."
Even more incredible was the fact that the person responsible for the deception would continue to evade identification for decades despite numerous investigations in to the skull's origins.
Now though, following a renewed effort to identify the culprit, investigators have finally revealed the hoaxer to be none other than Charles Dawson - the man who first unearthed the remains.
"Whether Dawson acted alone is uncertain, but his hunger for acclaim may have driven him to risk his reputation and misdirect the course of anthropology for decades," the team wrote.
"The Piltdown hoax stands as a cautionary tale to scientists not to be led by preconceived ideas, but to use scientific integrity and rigor in the face of novel discoveries."
Source: Washington Post
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