Piltdown Man: The Time Frame
Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus Dawsoni) was once thought to be a "missing link" between man and ape. The first Piltdown fragments were discovered in 1912. Thereafter, over 500 scientific essays were written on the Piltdown Man in a 40-year period. The discovery was proven to be a deliberate hoax in 1953.
Piltdown Man: The Fossil Remains
Piltdown Man consisted of two human skulls, an orangutan jaw, an elephant molar, a hippopotamus tooth, and a canine tooth from a chimpanzee. Sir Kenneth Oakley has determined the human skulls to be approximately 620 years old. They may have belonged to Ona Indians from Patagonia, as the skulls were unusually thick. Thick skulls are a common trait among Ona Indians. The orangutan jaw is around 500 years old, perhaps from Sarawak. The elephant molar is thought to be from Tunisia. The hippopotamus tooth is thought to have come from Malta or perhaps Sicily. The canine tooth belonged to a Pleistocene Chimpanzee. The Piltdown remains were purposefully scattered around a quarry in Piltdown, England, so that they could be "discovered" later as evidence for evolution and the development of man from ape. The skulls had been treated with acid. All of the fossil remains were stained with an iron sulfate solution. The canine tooth was painted brown and patched with bubble gum. The molars were filed down. The portion of the orangutan jaw that connected the jaw to its skull was carefully broken so as not to show evidence that this jaw did not belong to a human skull.
Piltdown Man: The Perpetrators
The Piltdown Man hoax is thought to have been perpetrated by Charles Dawson, an archaeologist, geologist and fossil collector for the British Museum. However, no one is quite certain who was involved. There are a number of other suspects, including Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, Keeper of the British Museum's Natural History department, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist and Jesuit theologian.
Piltdown Man: A Deliberate Hoax
Piltdown Man was obviously a deliberate hoax. Upon critical investigation, the hoax was exposed very quickly. However, the "find" was not investigated properly until forty-years after the initial "discovery". This was due primarily to the excellent credentials held by the men who made the "discovery." Very few experts ever suspected fraud. It wasn't until 1949, when the fossils were dated using the fluorine absorption technique, that the authenticity of the "discovery" was called into question. It is true that the fluorine test was not developed until many years after the hoax. However, the file marks upon the teeth, and the fact that the "wear" was backward, would have been immediately obvious upon any inspection from the very beginning.
Piltdown Man: A General Warning
The story of Piltdown Man acts as a warning to all of us. We must fully investigate any and all data very carefully. Not only are we contending against the obscurity of the past, but the hidden intentions of ambitious men.
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