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Piltdown Man #OnThisDay

On November 21st 1953 it was revealed by researchers that the famous skull, the ‘Piltdown Man’, was a piece of fakery.

Charles Dawson, an amateur fossil hunter, was able to perpetuate an amazing ‘con’ on the academic world claiming that the bones were the missing link between man and ape. Dawson along with his accomplice, the paleontologist Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, then discovered more bones. These amazing discoveries took place near the village of Piltdown, Sussex .

The portrait painted by John Cooke in 1915. Back row: (left to right) F. O. Barlow, G. Elliot Smith, Charles Dawson, Arthur Smith Woodward. Front row: A. S. Underwood, Arthur Keith, W. P. Pycraft, and Sir Ray Lankester. Note the painting of Charles Darwin on the wall. John Cooke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1912 the results of their discoveries were presented to the Geological Society of London. The hoax was not revealed until 1953 when researchers at the University of Oxford were able to examine and date the bones with accuracy.

Dawson was able to fool the experts of the day by employing the same trick used by successful con artists since time immemorial: He showed them what they wanted to see.

Study reveals culprit behind Piltdown Man, one of science’s most famous hoaxes

You can read more about how the hoax was able to fool so many here: Study reveals culprit behind Piltdown Man, one of science’s most famous hoaxes

Click on this link for the Natural History Museum and their set of images: Piltdown Man

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