Published 100 years on from Dawson’s death, new research reveals that the forgeries were created using a limited number of specimens that were all constructed using a consistent method, suggesting the perpetrator acted alone.It is highly likely that an orang-utan specimen and at least two human skeletons were used to create the fakes, which are still kept at the Natural History Museum.
Between 1912 and 1914 Museum palaeontologist Arthur Smith Woodward and the amateur antiquarian Charles Dawson announced the discovery of fossils from Piltdown in Sussex. These were supposedly a new evolutionary link between apes and humans. They indicated a species with both an ape-like jaw and a large braincase like a modern human. Before he died in 1916, Dawson claimed to have discovered further evidence at a second site.The forgeries helped misdirect the study of anthropology for decades. While doubts were raised from the start, it took 40 years for the scientific community to recognise that the remains had been altered to seem ancient and had been planted in the sites.
This is an excellent example of how science works. It is the search for Truth that drives scientists, regardless of what an examination may bring. It is sad that this hoax misdirected that search for a long time but in the end, truth will out.
One of my favorite TV shows is Time Team, a UK Channel 4 show that conducted 3 day exploratory archeological digs all over the British Isles. And one of my favorite episodes is this one, which demonstrates perfectly how that search works: