What in the world is a Piltdown Man?

For some odd reason I am hearing many things about the Piltdown man suddenly, mainly on this pro-creationist documentarys. They don’t seem toexplain what the Piltdown Man is though. I heard it was fake too… does anyone know the real story?

The internet search function is your friend, use it. :slight_smile:


The Piltdown Man was perhaps the biggest scientific hoax of the 20th century. Here’s a site about it:

The skull was from a human skeleton.

Here’s the Piltdown Man’s home page: http://www.tiac.net/users/cri/piltdown.html

A hoax. Some books on the subject
The Piltdown Men by Ronald Miller in 1975
The Piltdown Forgery by J. S. Weiner in 1955
The Piltdown Inquest by Charles Blinderman in 1986

Allow me to paraphrase from Frauds, Myths and Mysteries by Kenneth L. Feder in 1990
After evoultion had hit Germany was proud that it had Neanderthals as their ancestors. Some British were feeling like a people with no roots so in 1912 when a discovery came along that a primitive man had been found in England by Charles Dawson the Brits were quite willing to accept it. The skull had a modern cranium but primitive jaws. Which was better and more advanced then the Neanderthals. These surely were the ancestors of modern humans, and they came from England. There were already akeptics saying the cranium looked too human and the jaws to apelike that it was likely from 2 different animals.

In 1949 a new dating technique was used to date the find. The jaws and cranium were definately confirmed to be of two different ages. The skull turned out to be a modern human skull which had been chemically altered. Whether or not it was Dawson who forged it is much debated.

To follow up on Osiris’ book recommendations, Weiner is the must-read on the subject. It was his suspicion of forgery that led to the unmasking of it as fake. He then fingered Dawson as the likely hoaxer. The entire subsequent literature on the case is effectively a reaction to Weiner’s book. Virtually all such investigations are predicated on Dawson having had an accomplice; otherwise there’s really little to add to what Weiner said. To add to the list, Stephen Jay Gould provocatively suggested Teilhard de Chardin as the sidekick in several essays, reprinted in Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes. (Yes, this is the Teilhard de Chardin; he was training at a seminary in the vicinity and knew Dawson via their common interest in fossils.) Then Frank Spencer’s Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery (OUP, 1990) has Sir Arthur Keith as the brains, with Dawson doing the dirty work on the ground. Personally, I suspect that the hoax wasn’t as sophisticated in execution as usually suggested and it could easily have been a solo job by Dawson.