Piltdown hoax dating technique
Whoever committed the forgery, the consequences were long-lasting.The belief that modern humans evolved in Britain persisted for another 40 years — it was so ingrained that many scientists dismissed a real archaic human fossil, the Taung Child, when it was uncovered in South Africa in 1924."The story originated with him," the authors write."Nothing was ever found at the site when Dawson was not there, he is the only known person directly associated with the supposed finds at the second Piltdown site, the exact whereabouts of which he never revealed, and no further significant fossils, mammal or human, were discovered in the localities after his death in 1916." Dawson was an experienced fossil hunter (and faker — a number of his other finds ultimately turned out to be hoaxes) who had friends in the paleontology community and a thorough understanding of what a "missing link" fossil ought to look like.] The first mention of the skull came in February 1912, when Dawson sent a letter to his friend Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, head of geology at the British Museum, about an exciting new skull he'd uncovered on his land near the town of Piltdown.Just five years earlier, German scientists had uncovered the mandible of a 600,000 year old in solidity," Dawson promised.Later "excavations" at two Piltdown sites revealed a jaw bone, teeth, stone tools and a piece of carved fossil bone deemed a "cricket bat." They also cast a cloud of suspicion over everyone who took part.A volunteer in Woodward's department, Martin Hinton, seemed a likely suspect, especially after researchers at the Natural History Museum discovered a trunk of stained bones he'd left in storage there.
"The Piltdown hoax stands as a cautionary tale to scientists not to be led by preconceived ideas, but to use scientific integrity and rigor in the face of novel discoveries." [Dear Science: Why aren't apes evolving into humans?Plus, he was a local; to this gathering of Brits, it would have seemed completely right and proper that humankind got its start just down the road in Sussex. In 1953, scientists at the British Natural History Museum and University of Oxford reported that the Piltdown fossil was actually a hodgepodge of human and orangutan bones, none of them more than 720 years old.The remains had been meticulously worn down with a file and stained with iron and acid to give the appearance of age. [Five of the most famous scientific hoaxes] The scientists called the fake "extraordinarily skillful," and the hoax "so entirely unscrupulous and inexplicable as to find no parallel in the history of paleontological discovery." But their investigation couldn't resolve one question: Who would have done such a thing, and why?When Piltdown Man was unveiled before a meeting of London geologists in 1912, he was heralded as paleoanthropology's "missing link," the long-sought transitional form between modern humans and our great ape ancestor.He had a smallish skull, a chimp-like jaw, and a mixture of primitive and modern teeth to boot.