A Brief History
On December 18, 1912, Charles Dawson announced the discovery of the prehistoric missing link between ape and man!
Digging deeper, we find Dawson, an amateur archaeologist presenting fossilized skull pieces to the Geological Society of London, claiming they were found in a quarry near Piltdown, East Sussex.
The scientific community accepted the skull and jaw bones as genuine and declared a new species of ape-man, naming it Eoanthropus dawsoni. This creature was touted as the “missing link” between ape and man.
As usual with new scientific discoveries, critics did not accept the discovery and conclusions as genuine, citing discrepancies in various aspects of the skull and teeth. The find was generally accepted as real and became part of “science” for 40 years. Dawson’s “discovery” of another Piltdown Man’s bones (named after the town near the original discovery) in 1915 reinforced the belief in the authenticity of Piltdown Man.
In 1953, a group of English scientists studying Piltdown Man came to the conclusion that the so called discovery was indeed a hoax, probably the longest and most widely believed hoax concerning the evolution of humans. Indeed, it ranks third on the list of “Top 10 Hoaxes of All Time“. The fossils consisting of human skull parts dating from medieval times, orangutan jaw parts perhaps 500 years old and chimpanzee teeth were irrefutable evidence of fraud.
As Dawson had died in 1916, it is not known today if he originated the hoax or if he himself was duped by being presented the phony fossils. Several people may have been involved in perpetrating the fraud, either singly or in unison.
This fraudulent discovery actually many have hindered scientific progress by misleading researchers and diverting them from factual research and wasting their time on the hoax. Modern dating techniques (such as carbon dating and fluorine absorption) should prevent science being fooled in the future. Question for students (and subscribers): Still, one has to admit the hoax was pretty darn successful, though the question becomes, why? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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The incident has been put forth as one of the top ten reasons why Christians should study evolution in high school. Not surprisingly, it has been the subject of numerous books, including…
Maxwell, Jonathan. Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes: A book about Lies, Legends, and the Search for the Missing Link. American Book Publishing, 2012.
Russell, Miles. Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson (Revealing History). Tempus, 2004.
Russell, Miles. The Piltdown Man Hoax: Case Closed. The History Press, 2013.