Piltdown man

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Piltdown man,

name given to human remains found during excavations (1908–15) at Piltdown, Sussex, England, by Charles Dawson. The find led to much speculation and argument. Since they were found with remains of mammals of the Lower Pleistocene epoch, they were supposed to belong to a "Piltdown man" who lived 200,000 to 1,000,000 years ago. Many scientists doubted the whole proposition. They were justified when fluorine tests showed in 1950 that the Piltdown fossil was no more than 50,000 years old. X-ray analysis proved that the jaw was from a chimpanzee; further tests demonstrated conclusively that the jaw and tooth were of modern origin.

There has been much speculation concerning who was responsible for the hoax: Dawson; Arthur Smith Woodward, the paleontologist who identified the fossils as hominin remains; Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was present during some of the excavations; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who lived nearby and knew Dawson; and others. In 1996, on the basis of evidence found in a trunk in the British Museum, it was suggested that the zoologist Martin A. C. Hinton planted the remains to embarrass Woodward, but other researchers have argued that the evidence most strongly points to Dawson.


See J. S. Weiner, The Piltdown Forgery (1955); R. W. Millar, The Piltdown Men (1972); F. Spencer, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery (1990); M. Russell, Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson (2003).

Piltdown man

[′pilt‚dau̇n ‚man]
An alleged fossil man based on fragments of a skull and mandible that were eventually discovered to constitute a skillful hoax.

Piltdown man

missing link turned out to be orangutan. [Br. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 46; Time, October 13, 1978, 82]
See: Hoax
References in periodicals archive ?
At least, the original fabricator of the Piltdown man knew that it was all a hoax.
He may have learned from the comments of some early scientific critics of Piltdown Man, the researchers suspect.
Most of his peers came no closer to Piltdown Man and his companion than the plaster molds of the two skulls that the museum helpfully provided for them.
There were more recent textbooks in my classroom in which Piltdown Man was discredited as a hoax.
In the second part of their paper, S&T describe the historical frauds that were perpetrated by Copernicus and the hoaxers who created the Piltdown Man, examples they would surely acknowledge are quite far afield from the domain of accounting history.
The Natural History Museum in London announces that the remains of Piltdown Man are part of an elaborate hoax.
THE discovery was hailed as the missing link between ape and man - but four decades later the Piltdown Man was branded the "biggest scientific hoax of the century".
An example of this is the famous Piltdown Man hoax.
Later Buckley would aptly write that Wechsler was so pure a liberal that he ought to be on exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution, for tourists and schoolchildren to gawk at, as they did at Piltdown Man.
In the 1950s, geologists found out that the whole fossils of the Piltdown Man were a hoax.
Remarkable in a different way is the gloriously vibrant collection of Chinese monochrome porcelains amassed by the late Professor Teddy Hall, the scientist who pioneered thermoluminescence testing and debunked both the fakes of Piltdown Man and the Turin Shroud (he was also intrigued by testing the often complex composition of the glazes of his porcelains).
This book was originally published fifty years ago but it has been re-released to mark the anniversary of the discovery that the Piltdown Man was a fake.