The Piltdown Skull

Nature Sept. 25, 1913

[110] In his evening lecture to the British Association at Birmingham on September 16, Dr. Smith Woodward took the opportunity of replying to Prof. Arthur Keith's recent criticisms on his reconstruction of the Piltdown skull. It will be remembered that Dr. Woodward regarded the mandible as essentially that of an ape, and restored it with ape-like front teeth, while he determined the brain-capacity of the skull to approach closely the lowest human limit. Prof. Keith, on the other hand, modified the curves of the mandible to accommodate typically human teeth, and reconstructed the skull with a brain-capacity exceeding that of the average civilised European.

Fortunately, Mr. Charles Dawson has continued the diggings at Piltdown this summer with some success, and on August 30, Father P. Teilhard, who was working with him, picked up the canine tooth which obviously belongs to the half of the mandible originally discovered. This tooth corresponds exactly in shape with the lower canine of an ape, and its worn face shows that it worked upon the upper canine in the true ape-fashion. It only differs from the canine of Dr. Woodward's published restoration in being slightly smaller, more pointed, and a little more up[111]right in the mouth. Hence, there seems now to be definite proof that the front teeth of Eoanthropus resembled those of an ape, and the recognition as a genus distinct from Homo is apparently justified.

The association of such a mandible with a skull of large brain-capacity is considered by Dr. Woodward most improbable, and he has made further studies of the missing base. Dr. Woodward now concludes that the only alteration necessary in his original model is a very slight widening of the back of the parietal region to remedy a defect which was pointed out to him by Prof. Elliot Smith when he first studied the brain-cast. The capacity of the brain-case thus remains much the same as he originally stated, and he maintains that Prof. Keith has arrived at a different result by failing to recognise the mark of the superior longitudinal sinus on the frontal region and by unduly widening that on the parietal region.

It is understood that Mr. Dawson and Dr. Woodward will offer an account of the season's work to the Geological Society at an early meeting, and Prof. Elliot Smith will include a detailed study of the brain-cast of Eoanthropus in a memoir on primitive human brains which he is preparing for the Royal Society.