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).

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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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Piltdown man

missing link turned out to be orangutan. [Br. Hist.: Wallechinsky, 46; Time, October 13, 1978, 82]
See: Hoax
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
At least, the original fabricator of the Piltdown man knew that it was all a hoax.
Dawson's ambition to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society, an honor that he was nominated for but didn't receive, may have motivated him to fake Piltdown Man, the researchers say.
"It means rejection of the doctrine of the Ark, of a literal seven days of creation, of a direct creation of man and the higher animals." It's perhaps redundant to add that several academics competed to retail Piltdown Man to schoolchildren, as in George William Hunter's textbook A Civic Biology, and that it became an issue both in the 1925 Scopes Trial and that case's subsequent appeal.
Teilhard has also been linked to the 1912 discovery of "Piltdown Man" in England, later exposed as a hoax.
In discussing early humans, it included a lengthy description of Piltdown Man. You may have heard of the Piltdown Man Hoax.
Fay to be as bogus a construct as Piltdown Man. Even if Fay had not exposed their genesis, the implausibility of their portrait of Shostakovich as a satirical anti-Communist dissident should have been manifest from the facts that he died in bed and avoided the gulag.
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".
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. He or someone else said that Wechsler was like a bronze bust of The Liberal that one might strike matches upon.
While working with them in the field, Teilhard found a tooth that supposedly belonged to 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).
Of course the photographs of the people that were involved in the Piltdown Man look as though they were taken a long time ago but the text is still as readable today as it was 50 years ago.