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Who perpetrated the Piltdown Man hoax?

Next weeks marks the 100th anniversary of the “discovery” of Piltdown Man, the missing link. It turns out it was all a cleverly executed hoax, and now researchers are trying to identify who perpetrated it.

There are many suspects but the favourite is Charles Dawson, who was a solicitor and amateur fossil hunter. He ‘found’ pieces of a thick human-like skull in gravel beds at Piltdown in Sussex, and supposedly made further finds at a second site two miles away in 1915.

In 1912, he wrote a letter to the then Keeper of Geology at the Museum, Arthur Smith Woodward, and they joined forces to unearth more skull pieces, and an ape-like jaw fragment containing 2 teeth.

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Story: Natural History Museum | Photo: Natural History Museum

One thought on “Who perpetrated the Piltdown Man hoax?

  1. Actually, Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes (and a neighbor of Dawson’s), has been bandied about as a likely candidate as the perpetrator of the Piltdown hoax. In his Professor Challenger adventure, “The Lost World,” Doyle actually leaves a clue to this when the book’s hero remarks that the non-fossilized bone of a prehistoric animal looks genuine, Challenger, playing Devil’s Advocate, responds with something to the effect of “A bone can be faked as easily as a photograph!” It’s possible that Doyle was just testing the theory by trumping up an orangutang’s jaw with a human brain-pan (or whatever it was, I read this a pretty long time ago!)

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