Sociology Index


Piltdown Man is one of the great science hoaxes of the 20th century. Human fossil remains were discovered in 1912 on an estate near Piltdown Common in England, and Piltdown Man bones were claimed to be evidence of the evolutionary transition from hominid to homo sapiens and were thought to be very important but was a hoax. Smith Woodward reconstructed the skull fragments and hypothesised that they belonged to a human ancestor from 500,000 years ago. The discovery was announced at a Geological Society meeting and was given the Latin name Eoanthropus dawsoni. Piltdown Man confused the scientific community for 40 years until it was discovered that the skull was only 500 years old rather than 500,000, and the jawbone was that of an orangutan.

While some doubt was raised about the authenticity of the Piltdown Man discovery, it was not until 1953, after the use of fluorine tests for dating archaeological materials, that the bones were revealed as a hoax. There is still considerable mystery about the perpetrator of this Piltdown Man hoax which stood for so long.

Piltdown Man: Combining the Instruction of Scientific Ethics and Qualitative Research AnalysisVincent, John B. A laboratory experiment was developed to allow students to feel some of the sense of scientific discovery associated with the exposure of the Piltdown Man fraud. This is accomplished by modifying a commonly performed freshman chemistry laboratory experiment, qualitative analysis of group III metal ions.

Pieces of chalk are treated with chromium, manganese, and iron to simulate the treatment used to forge the Piltdown Man "fossils."An extensive scientific review in 2016 established that amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson was its likely perpetrator. - Webb, Jonathan (10 August 2016). "Piltdown review points decisive finger at forger Dawson". BBC. The Piltdown Hoax illustrates the dangerous effects a preconceived notion of what "should" be true can have on the scientific pursuit of the truth.

Woodward, A. Smith. The Piltdown Man Skull. Nature.

Woodward, A. Smith. Note on the Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus dawsoni). Geol. Mag. n. s., Dec. 5, vol. 10.