Re: Piltdown Man

Jim Foley (
9 Aug 1995 18:50:53 GMT

In article <406gam$>, Derek Tearne <> wrote:

>It is unclear who was actually involved in the hoax, it is
>very likely that a third party setup the hoax and the people
>who presented papers and took the glory for the find were suckered
>into it. Simply the skull of a medieval human (a particularly thick
>skulled specimen) and the skull of a medieval Orangutan were placed
>where they would be found by a group of collectors who were very keen
>to make a find on British soil.

There is apparently good circumstantial evidence that the original
finder, an amateur called Charles Dawson, had to be at least partly
involved, and the usual thinking is that he probably had a skilled

>The jaw bone had been snapped to
>remove the hinges (this would have been a dead give away) and the teeth
>filed to look more like an early hominid. The specimen, which fitted
>almost exactly the characteristics scientists expected to find in a
>specimen from strata of that age. Indeed these are almost exactly
>the characteristcs found in the genuine Java Man specimen.

Piltdown had a modern cranium with an apelike jaw. Java Man had a more
primitive cranium, very thick and flat, and it's jaw and teeth, had they
been known at the time, are modern (but large). So Piltdown and Java
Man are almost opposites in these respects.

>Several others wrote papers based on the specimen (some identifying
>the file marks on the teeth as wear associated with the animals
>lifestyle etc) until someone tried the new technique of carbon

It was detected largely because of fluorine dating by Kenneth Oakley.

>There is a book entitled 'The Piltdown Men' which explains this
>all in more detail.

There are quite a few books on it, and all of them probably have
different theories. Just about anyone who ever had anything to do with
Piltdown has been accused at one time or another.

Jim (Chris) Foley,
Assoc. Prof. of Omphalic Envy Research interest:
Department of Anthropology Primitive hominids
University of Ediacara (Australopithecus creationistii)