THE STORY OF THE PILTDOWN MAN HOAX
*** PREFACE ***
This is a followup to our article, Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man: These fake "proofs" were used in the infamous "Scopes Monkey Trial" to "prove" evolution. They were entered in the court record. Evolution eventually entered our schools based on lies.
According to the Evolution Encyclopedia, the Scopes Monkey trial was"the event that changed the direction of the creation-evolution controversy in America. In Dayton [Tennessee] it was discovered that ridicule was more valuable than truth, and laughter better than science. From that day to this, school districts, universities, politicians, and governments have all feared to openly oppose evolutionary theory." (Evolution Encyclopedia Vol. 3, Chapter 30 The Scopes Trial)
During that infamous travesty known as the "Scopes Monkey Trial," Piltdown man was used as key evidence to "prove" evolution. Practically from the outset of the Piltdown discovery, there were questions about it (which were pretty much ignored) but Piltdown was openly declared a fraud by in 1953. Also of note is the role of Teilhard de Chardin--an evolutionist and a Jesuit priest who just happened to come up with some key "evidence" (ibid, .html pages 15, 16).
THE STORY OF PILTDOWN MANBracketed subheadings--
Excerpted from Evolution Encyclopedia Vol. 3, Chapter 30 The Scopes Trial, html pages 13-17
(emphases ours, bracketed [ ] subheadings ours.)
- Piltdown Man--proclaimed as the grand proof that man evolved from apes--was a hoax and most shaking of exposes. Scientists were fooled for decades.
- The story of the discovery of Piltdown Man. On a fateful day, Dawson, a lawyer, was walking when he noticed the mending of the road.
- Forming a circle of scientists
- Parts vital for proper analysis were missing
- A dissenting professional opinion angered the group...then **a Jesuit** conveniently found a game changing tooth
- Reconstructed head and an announcement of the discovery of "Piltdown Man"
- "Discovery" officially announced
- In 1913, the Jesuit and Dawson go down to the Piltdown pit--and find another tooth! How coincidental!
- Not all scientists were satisfied with the Piltdown "evidence".
- They caught Dawson staining bones.
- Piltdown II?
- Early complaints about Piltdown Man largely ignored
- Dawson and others celebrated as heroes
- Piltdown locked away--too man people finding problems with the bones
- 1953 the hoax uncovered
- Books about the Piltdown man hoax
- House of Commons proposed vote of "no confidence" in the scientific leadership of the British Museum. Concluding thoughts.
[PILTDOWN MAN--PROCLAIMED AS THE GRAND PROOF THAT MAN EVOLVED FROM APES--
WAS A HOAX AND MOST SHAKING OF EXPOSES. "SCIENTISTS" WERE FOOLED FOR DECADES.]
Whether some like it or not, the story of the Piltdown hoax will ever stand as a great epoch In the history of evolutionary presentations. Other evolutionary frauds have been repeatedly perpetrated and later uncovered. But the Piltdown hoax was the most shaking of the exposes when it finally occurred, due to the fact that, for decades, Piltdown Man had been proclaimed as the grand proof that man evolved from apes. Here is a story of "Skull Duggery; " the story of Piltdown Man:
[THE STORY OF THE DISCOVERY OF PILTDOWN. ON A FATEFUL DAY, DAWSON, A LAWYER,
WAS WALKING WHEN HE NOTICED THE MENDING OF THE ROAD.]
*Charles Dawson, a Sussex lawyer, was walking along a farm road close to Piltdown Common, Fletching (Sussex)[,] England one day, when he "noticed that the road had been mended with some peculiar brown flints not usual in the district." Upon inquiry, he was "astonished" to learn that they had been dug from a gravel bed on a farm. He determined that he must go find where this "strange gravel" came from, although no one else in the community had ever considered the gravel strange.
Relating the incident later in December 1912, Dawson said that that walk on the road took place "several years ago." This would put it in 1909 or 1910. It is believed that none other than *Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the imaginative inventor of the Sherlock Holmes detective mystery stories, was involved along with Dawson, in initially developing the idea for this fraudulent placement and later "discovery" of bones.
"Shortly afterwards," Charles Dawson visited the gravel pit (located about halfway between Uckfield and Haywards Heath, interestingly enough, only a few miles from the mansion where *Charles Darwin lived most of his life), and found two men digging gravel. He asked them if they had found any "bones or other fossils," and they told him No. He said that he then urged them to watch for such things, for they might find some in the future.
Not long after, he just happened to walk by the gravel pit again one morning--and was met by an excited workman who said that he found part of a skull in the gravel just after arriving at work! Describing it afterward, Dawson said that "it was a small portion of unusually thick parietal bone that looked as if it might be human and 300,000 years old." That was a lot to figure out at a glance.
Mr. Dawson made immediate search, but could find nothing else in the gravel pit. It was not until "some years later," in the autumn of 1911, on another visit to the spot, that Dawson found another and larger piece of bone. This time it was part of the frontal region of a skull, and included a portion of the ridge extending over the left eyebrow. He just happened to walk over to the gravel pit that day--and there it was!
A short time thereafter, he happened to have *Dr. Arthur Smith Woodward, head of the Department of Geology at the British Museum of Natural History, with him on the day he found the all-important jawbone at the gravel pit. As Woodward looked on,--Dawson dug down and there it was!
This "magnificent discovery" came at just the right time. Both *Charles Darwin and *Thomas Huxley had died, and, although "fossil human bones" had been dug up in various places in far countries, such as the Neanderthal, none of them were of much use to the cause. They were all clearly human.
What was needed was a half-million-year-old half-ape/half-human appearing skull and jawbone. --And where better a place to find such old bones than in perpetually damp England, where even bones half a century old normally have already turned back to dust.
[FORMING A CIRCLE OF SCIENTISTS]
Woodward was an avid paleontologist, and had written many papers on fossil fish. Dawson and Woodward had many long talks together over those bones.
Then *Arthur Keith, an anatomist, was called in. Keith was one of the most highly-respected scientists in England. Author of several classic works, he had all the credentials of respectability: a doctorate in medicine, Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Fellow of the Royal Society, President of the Royal Anthropological Institute, plus membership in the Anatomical Society, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
There was more talk. Then *Grafton Elliot Smith, a renowned brain specialist, was brought into the circle. Thus was gathered together a team of scientists that was one of the most respected in the British Isles. --And the subject of their penetrating conversations: some bones that were not all there.
[PARTS VITAL FOR PROPER ANALYSIS WERE MISSING]
The lower jaw was too big for a human skull but, significantly, the upper jaw was entirely missing, and with it part of the lower jaw--and the important lower canine teeth. Also missing were the mating parts for the jaw hinge. That which was missing was exactly that which would have shown (1) whether or not the lower jaw, which was apelike, was from a human or an ape, and (2) whether the lower jaw fitted with the upper skull bones, which were obviously human.
[A DISSENTING PROFESSIONAL OPINION ANGERED THE GROUP...
THEN **A JESUIT** CONVENIENTLY FOUND A GAME CHANGING TOOTH]
The skull itself consisted only of several pieces. This meant that the size of the brain case could not be determined. The pieces might fit a larger brain case or a small one; there was no way of knowing. Keith, although an ardent evolutionist like the others, was more open to evidence, and theorized 1,500 cubic centimeters for the volume of the brain case, whereas Woodward thought it was only 1,070 (midway between an ape [600 cc] and a human[ averaging 1500 cc]). Keith's estimate, which was slightly larger than some modern men, was made on the basis of the larger jaw. But his estimate angered the other men. Then *Teilhard de Chardin, an ardent evolutionist, although a Jesuit priest at a nearby seminary, found an ape--like canine tooth in that gravel pit. Keith relented at this, and the men agreed on a brain capacity of 1,200 cc.
[RECONSTRUCTED HEAD AND AN OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
OF THE DISCOVERY OF "PILTDOWN MAN"]
With this miserly collection of a few bone fragments, the scientists "reconstructed" the entire head of what they proudly proclaimed to be "Piltdown Man." Here at last, they triumphantly declared, was the "long-awaited missing link." Since Latin names are always supposed to prove something, they named it Eoanthropus Dawsoni, which stands for "Dawson's Dawn Man." That name made everything sound scientific.
["DISCOVERY" OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED]
On December 16, 1912, the discovery was officially announced at the Geological Society. The press went wild. Here was a sensation that would sell newspapers. Many people accepted it; many others did not.
[IN 1913, THE JESUIT AND DAWSON GO DOWN TO THE PILTODOWN PIT--
AND FIND ANOTHER TOOTH! HOW COINCIDENTAL!]
On August 29, 1913 Teilhard stayed overnight with Dawson, and then went with him the next day to the Piltdown pit. And there it was! Another of the two missing canine teeth! It was right there, not far under the gravel in the pit. Imagine that: just setting there, beautifully preserved for 300,000 years, washed by stream water and dampened by ages of British fog,--waiting for Dawson and Teilhard to find it.
This was the crucial third piece of evidence and was duly reported at the 1913 meeting of the Geological Society.
Along with that tooth was found a stegodon (elephant) tooth. That was helpful, for it provided evidence that the bones must indeed be very, very ancient.
More recently, scientists have analyzed that particular stegodon tooth--and found it to contain a remarkably high level of radioactivity (from an ancient inflow of 0.1 percent uranium oxide into it). The radioactive level was far too high for the British Isles, but equal to what one would find in stegodon teeth being recovered at that time in the dry climate of Ichkeul, Tunisia. It just so happened that, from 1906 to 1908, Teilhard, an avid fossil collector for many years, had lived in North Africa and was known to have stayed for a time at Ichkeul near Bizerta in North Tunisia, a site where Stegodon fossils are plentiful.
[NOT ALL SCIENTISTS WERE SATISFIED WITH THE PILTDOWN "EVIDENCE".]
But not all were satisfied. Some scientists argued that the jaw and skull did not belong to the same individual. It was also observed that the few skull pieces could be arranged in a number of shapes and sizes to match any desired brain case and head shape that might be desired.
In reality, that is exactly what had been done. The parts had been carefully selected with consummate skill to provide only certain evidence, while omitting certain other facts. The objective was to afterward reconstruct the head along ape lines, for the nearer the "reconstruction" could be pushed toward the brute beast, the more convincing it would appear as "scientific evidence" of evolution.
The objections offered were tossed aside and given little attention in scientific societies, and even less in the public press. Human bones do not sell as many papers as do human-ape bones.
The actual bones were placed in the British Museum, and plaster casts of the half-man/half-ape "reconstruction" were sent to museums all over the world.
By August 1913, when the British Association for the Advancement of Science discussed the Piltdown bones, another molar tooth and two nasal bones "had been found" in that same gravel pit. It was marvelous how many pieces of bone kept appearing in that gravel pit!
Here we have bones well preserved after 300,000 years in that damp gravel, whereas all the other millions of upon millions of bones of animals and men who had lived and died in that area during that supposed timespan were not to be found. Just that one set of skull pieces, jawbone, and teeth, and that was it. And so close to the surface. Where does gravel come from? It is washed in from stream beds. Stream beds do such a good job of preserving 300,000-year-old bones! Well, back to the story.
In their final reconstruction of the bones, the men put their solitary canine tooth on the right side of the lower jaw at an angle suggestive of an ape. That helped the cause!
It does not take much to fool people, and the reconstructionists worked with care and forethought. With a human skull and an ape skull jaw before them as they worked, they shaped the plaster to produce an "ape man."
[THEY CAUGHT DAWSON STAINING BONES]
*Captain St. Barbe and *Major Marriott were two amateur paleontologists from Sussex, who later reported that, on separate occasions, they had surprised Dawson in his office staining bones. Because of this, they suspected that his Piltdown bone finds were nothing more than fakes. Yet few would listen to them.
In 1915, Dawson sent Woodward a postcard announcing that he had found more fossils in a different gravel pit somewhere in the Piltdown area. No one has ever been told the location of that pit, however. But these new cranial bones, although even more fragmentary than the first ones, were with all due ceremony published by Woodward as "Piltdown II" finds in 1916, shortly after the death of Dawson.
[EARLY COMPLAINTS ABOUT PILTDOWN MAN LARGELY IGNORED]
Then came four other revelations:
(1) *W.K. Gregory in 1914, and *G.S. Miller in 1915, announced in scientific journals that that "right lower" canine tooth--was in reality a left upper tooth!
Scientists were not able to properly identify the only canine tooth in their possession, yet they were very definite in solemnly announcing that the Piltdown gravel was "in the main composed of Pliocene drift, probably reconstructed in the Pleistocene epoch." They had less dexterity with teeth in hand than with their specific dates millions of years in the past.
(2) Another complaint came from *Ales Hrdlicka who, in Smithsonian Report for 1913, declared that the jaw and the canine tooth belonged to a chimpanzee.
(3) A dental anatomist examined the teeth in 1916, and duly reported that they had been filed. The files marks were quite obvious to see. But Keith and Woodward chose to ignore the report. They had good reason to ignore it.
(4) In 1921, *Sir Ray Lankester, maintained that the skull and jaw never belonged to the same creature. His conclusion was confirmed by David Waterston of the University of London, King's College.
But NOT ONE of the above four revelations ever reached the public press in any appreciable amount. A whole generation grew up with "Piltdown Man" as their purported ancestor. Textbooks, exhibits, displays, encyclopedias--all spread the good news that we came from apes after all.
[DAWSON AND OTHERS CELEBRATED AS HEROES]
Oil paintings of the discoverers were executed. The bones were named after Dawson, and the other men (Keith, Woodward and Grafton) were knighted by British royalty for their part in the great discovery.
[PILTDOWN LOCKED AWAY--TOO MANY PEOPLE FINDING PROBLEMS WITH THE BONES]
As for the bones of Piltdown Man, too many people were finding fault with them, so they were carefully placed under lock and key in the British Museum. Even such authorities as *Louis Leakey were permitted to examine nothing better than plaster casts of the bones. Only the originals could reveal the fraud, not casts of them.
Decades passed, and then the whole thing blew apart.
As recently as 1946, the Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 14, p. 763) stated authoritatively, "Amongst British authorities there is agreement that the skull and jaw are parts of the same individual."
[1953 -- THE HOAX UNCOVERED]
Then, in 1953, *Kenneth Oakley (a British Museum geologist), in collaboration with *Joseph Weiner (an Oxford University anthropologist) and *Le Gros Clark (professor of anatomy at Oxford) somehow managed to get their hands on those original bones. A new method for determining the relative age of bones by their fluorine content had been recently developed. This fluorine test revealed the bones to be quite recent.
Additional examination revealed that the bones of Piltdown Man had been carefully stained with bichromate in order to make them appear aged. Drillings into the bone produced shavings, but should have produced powder if the bones had been ancient, but powder was not produced. Then that canine tooth was brought out--and found to have been filed, stained brown with potassium bichromate, and then packed with grains of sand. No wonder it took so long before the discovery could be announced; a lot of work had to first be done on those bones and teeth.
*Sir Solly Zuckerman, an expert in the field, later commented that the person or persons who perpetrated this deliberate and unscrupulous hoax, knew more about ape bones than did the scientists at the British Museum.
The fluorine test is a method of determining whether several bones were buried at the same time or at different times. This is done by measuring the amount of fluorine they have absorbed from ground water. It cannot give ages in years, but is a high-tech method of establishing ages of bones relative to each other.
"His [Oakley's] radioactive fluorine test proved the skull fragments were many thousands of years older than the jaw. They could not be from the same individual unless, as one scientist put it, 'the man died but his jaw lingered on for a few thousand years.' " --*A. Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution (1990), p. 383.
[BOOKS ABOUT THE PILTDOWN MAN HOAX]
In 1955, Weiner, chief detective in the case, later published a book about the hoax, The Piltdown Forgery. He considered Dawson to have been the one who initiated the fake.
"Every important piece proved a forgery. Man was a fraud from start to finish!" --*Alden P. Armagnac, "The Piltdown Hoax, " Reader's Digest, October 1958, p. 182.
(Another good source is *William L. Straus, Jr., "The Great Piltdown Hoax... Science, February 26, 1954. Also of interest is *Robert Silverberg, Scientists and Scoundrels: A Book of Hoaxes (1965).)
[PROPOSED VOTE OF "NO CONFIDENCE" IN THE SCIENTIFIC LEADERSHIP
OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. CONCLUDING THOUGHTS.]
The House of Commons was so disturbed by the announcement of the fraud, that it came close to passing a measure declaring "that the House has no confidence in the Trustees of the British Museum. . because of the tardiness of their discovery that the skull of the Piltdown man is a partial fake."
"A member of the British Parliament proposed a vote of 'no confidence' in the scientific leadership of the British Museum. The motion failed to carry when another M.P. [member of Parliament] reminded his colleagues that politicians had 'enough skeletons in their own closets.' " --*A. Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution (1990), p. 384.
Adding to the embarrassment of a government and nation, three years before the expose the National Nature Conservancy had spent a sizable amount of taxpayers' money in transforming the area in and around that pit into the Piltdown Gravel Pit National Monument!
So that is the story of another exercise in evolutionary futility; the story of Piltdown Man.
Link: Telling quotes on the Piltdown Man Hoax
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