Who was the Piltdown Man?


Piltdown Man was a famous hoax in which a species of extinct hominin was supposedly dug up at the Piltdown gravel pit in East Sussex, England, in 1912. The excavation, led by scientist Charles Dawson, appeared to unearth the fossilised fragments of a cranium and jawbone that, on analysis by Dawson and some of his contemporaries, was confirmed as a new species: a missing link between apes and early humans.

For the next 40 years other scientists voiced serious doubts over Piltdown Man’s authenticity – especially as later, genuine discoveries left the species isolated in the evolutionary sequence.

These misgivings were eventually proven justified in 1953 after an intensive reexamination of the bone fragments with modern scientific techniques revealed they were in fact from three different species. The cranium was from a modern human, the jawbone from an orangutan and the teeth from a chimpanzee.