Best Crime Of The Century:3 of 25

November 25, 2008

piltdown_manTHE FAKE APE-MAN, 1912

Eoanthropus dawsoni was the scientific name of this alleged missing link, and it would have been an extremely early example of a creature showing both human and apelike qualities. At 375,000 years old, it put England in contention for a cradle of humankind, being found in the Sussex town of Piltdown. The “first Englishman” he was proudly called when the anthropologist Charles Dawson found him in 1911. For decades, Piltdown Man was cited along with Neanderthal man and Heidelberg man as an example of early hominid life in Europe. Then in 1953, the fragments, including a jawbone, were tested: they did not contain enough fluorine to be the age that Dawson claimed; worse, the jawbone was that of a 10-year-old orangutan, its teeth ground down to simulate age, and a crude chemical wash applied to the bone to make it appear ancient. No one knows who perpetrated the hoax: Dawson had died in 1916. Very quickly, however, Piltdown became a synonym for phony; and England’s claim to antiquity was cut short by several hundred thousand years.

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2 Responses to “Best Crime Of The Century:3 of 25”

  1. Atlantis Says:

    Cro Magnon: Out of Atlantis


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