100-year-old scientific hoax


HoaxThe Piltdown Hoax is one of the most successful scientific frauds in history. In December 1912, British paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward and amateur antiquarian Charles Dawson announced to the world that they'd found an amazing early human fossil in Piltdown, England. The curious specimen had a humanlike skull with an apelike jaw. Given the scientific name Eoanthropus dawsoni, it was more commonly called Piltdown Man. Dawson and Woodward also reported that alongside Piltdown Man were a number of other stunning finds: stone tools, fossilized mammals and even an elephant bone. In 1916, Dawson claimed to have found more remains at a second site nearby. According to Stringer's telling, some scientists did question the Piltdown Man bonanza discovery. They didn't immediately cry fraud, but suspected the fossil deposits had simply been mixed together over time, suggesting the ape jaw and humanlike skull weren't actually associated. But it wasn't until the 1950s that Piltdown Man was exposed for the fraud it was. Chemical studies found the fossil to be less than 50,000 years old, not 1 million years as Dawson and Woodward claimed. Further testing showed the skull was likely from a modern human and the jaw probably from a modern orangutan.

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