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Deceiver, joker or innocent? Teilhard de Chardin and Piltdown Man

  • J. Francis Thackeray (a1)

Arthur SmithWoodward, an expert on fossil fish and Keeper of Palaeontology at the British Museum (Natural History), made the official announcement of the discovery of Piltdown Man’ (Eoanthropus dawsoni) on 18 December 1912 at Burlington House in London. The announcement was sensational at the time and attracted interest in a purported new hominid species with a large cranium, apparently associated with an ape-like jaw. It was not until some 40 years later that Eoanthropus (Dawn man’) was discredited (Weiner et al. 1953; Weiner 1955), with Charles Dawson (a country lawyer’, as well as amateur archaeologist and palaeontologist) being identified as the probable perpetrator of a hoax in which human cranial fragments were combined artificially with the modified jaw of an ape (considered to be that of an orangutan), at Piltdown in Sussex. Despite extensive investigations and a plethora of publications, the exact circumstances surrounding the Piltdown hoax remain uncertain (Weiner et al. 1953; Weiner 1955; Spencer 1990a&b; Thomas 2002).

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