Piltdown Man

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The "Piltdown Man" is a famous anthropological hoax concerning the finding of the remains of a previously unknown early human. The hoax find consisted of fragments of a skull and jawbone collected in 1912 from a gravel pit at Piltdown, a village near Uckfield, East Sussex, England. The fragments were thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilised remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man. The Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni ("Dawson's dawn-man", after the collector Charles Dawson) was given to the specimen. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan that had been deliberately combined with the skull of a fully developed modern human.

The Piltdown hoax is perhaps the most famous paleontological hoax ever. It has been prominent for two reasons: the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time (more than 40 years) that elapsed from its discovery to its full exposure as a forgery.

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Find

The finding of the Piltdown skull was poorly documented, but at a meeting of the Geological Society of London held on December 18, 1912, Charles Dawson claimed to have been given a fragment of the skull four years earlier by a workman at the Piltdown gravel pit. According to Dawson, workmen at the site had discovered the skull shortly before his visit and had broken it up. Revisiting the site on several occasions, Dawson found further fragments of the skull and took them to Arthur Smith Woodward, keeper of the geological department at the British Museum. Greatly interested by the finds, Woodward accompanied Dawson to the site, where between June and September 1912 they together recovered more fragments of the skull and half of the lower jaw bone.[1]

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