The Piltdown Man Hoax and Mystery
The "Find" of the Century
In 1908, two road workers were digging in the gravel trench along a road near the
In the fall of 1911,
Dawson and Woodward employed the help of another man, Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, to help with the excavation of the Piltdown site. Teilhard was a Jesuit priest and theologian as well as a respected paleontologist. According to Richard Harters article, Piltdown Man: The Bogus Bones Caper, Teilhard was purportedly chosen to help at the site because he could be trusted not to make the find public.
That year, the three men and a laborer unearthed some unique objects at Piltdown. Some of the artifacts they discovered were the right half of an ape-like lower jawbone, several pieces of an early elephant molar, fossilized beaver and mastodon teeth, as well as more skull fragments. The men concurred that the ape-like jawbone belonged to the almost human-looking pieces of skull, a belief that was reinforced by the fact that they were found in close proximity of one another.
After analyzing the specimens, the men made a remarkable conclusion. They determined that the skull and jawbone fragments were from an ancient human ancestor, who served as the missing link between ape and man. They believed the Piltdown Man, as the bone fragments were later called, provided evidence that man had actually evolved from the ancestors of modern apes, which supported
In November 1912, news of the amazing discovery reached the press. It was an instant news sensation. After all, the Piltdown Man was considered to be the oldest human skeletal remains ever unearthed.
Several weeks later, Woodward and Dawson officially presented the Piltdown Man to a large audience at the Geological Society of London. They explained how they made their discovery and that they believed the skeletal remains were more than 500,000 years old. Many experts from related fields further supported their conclusion. However, despite the fact that experts confirmed the age and origin of the artifacts, there were others who challenged the prevailing viewpoint.