The Bogus Bones Caper

Copyright © 1996-1997 by Richard Harter


[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web


This is the home page for Piltdown man, a paleontological "man who never was". In April of 1996 there was an extended discussion in the news group about the Piltdown man hoax.

During the discussion I checked the web and discovered that Piltdown man did not have a home page. I resolved to eliminate this deficiency in the scholarly resources of the world wide web; here, for your delectation, is Piltdown man's home page. Corrections and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

This page has been laid out so that it can be read sequentially or so that you can skip around in it using links. It is broken up into sections and subsections. Each section is headed by a list of links to the other sections. Each subsection has links back to the list of sub sections. There are brief biographies and a bibliography with internal links to them through out the text. This page is a self contained, text only, document. However there are links to supporting documents and pictures.

Supporting web pages

Tom Turrittin's comprehensive bibliography of Piltdown hoax references, 1953-1996

Tom Turrittin's overview of the bibliography and of accusations

Gerrell Drawhorn's paper accusing Arthur Smith Woodward

Photographs and maps

Photo of the Piltdown men contemplating Eoanthropus dawsonii (135K)

Reconstruction of the Piltdown man skull (168K)

Ordinance Survey Map of the Piltdown region (114K)

Woodward's reconstruction of the skull (62K)

Skull bones (some pieces assembled) (57K)

Outside and inside views of the Jawbone (71K)

Rutot's reconstruction of Piltdown Man (93K)


I am far from being the best qualified person to put together a substantive page on Piltdown man -- they are many others who have a better knowledge of the subject and who command more scholarly resources.

However people have been very kind, indeed enthusiastic, in helping to fill in the gaps. Even though I am the original author of the page and its editor-in-chief this page is, in a real sense, a collaborative effort.

Special thanks are due to Robert Parson (rparson@spot.Colorado.EDU) and Jim Foley

( who have made many invaluable suggestions and corrections. I also wish to thank Wesley Elsberry ( who found Betrayers of the Truth, David Bagnall ( who pointed out the Matthews articles in the New Scientist, and Robert B.Anderson ( who has written articles on the hoax.

Special thanks are also due to Tom Turrittin ( who has created comprehensive bibliography of references since 1953 to Piltdown man. He has made it available as a pair of web pages and

has graciously agreed to let me maintain a mirrored copy at this site. The web sites has links both to the

mirrored copy and to the original copy. Finally, I wish to thank Gerrell Drawhorn

( who has provided a copy of his 1994 paper for inclusion at this site.

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]


Piltdown man is one of the most famous frauds in the history of science. In 1912 Charles Dawson

discovered the first of two skulls found in the Piltdown quarry in Sussex, England, skulls of an apparently

primitive hominid, an ancestor of man. Piltdown man, or Eoanthropus dawsoni to use his scientific name,

was a sensation. He was the expected "missing link" a mixture of human and ape with the noble brow of

Homo sapiens and a primitive jaw. Best of all, he was British!

As the years went by and new finds of ancient hominids were made, Piltdown man became an anomaly that

didn't fit in, a creature without a place in the human family tree. Finally, in 1953, the truth came out.

Piltdown man was a hoax, the most ancient of people who never were. This is his story.

My principal source for the original version of this page is Ronald Millar's The Piltdown Men. This book

is an account of the entire Piltdown affair from beginning to end, including not merely the circumstances

but the general background of the paleontology and evolutionary theory with respect to human ancestry

during the period 1850-1950. A number of important books have also been written on the hoax, e.g. works

by Spencer, Weiner, Blinderman, and Walsh, and have been valuable resources.

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

The Story Of The Hoax

In following the history of the hoax it is useful to have a time line showing the principal events. The time

line runs as follows:

1856 -- Neanderthal man discovered

1856 -- Dryopithecus discovered

1859 -- Origin of Species published

1863 -- Moulin Quignon forgeries exposed

1869 -- Cro Magnon man discovered

1871 -- The Descent of Man published

1890 -- Java Man discovered

1898 -- Galley hill "man" discovered [modern, misinterpreted]

1903 -- First molar of Peking man found

1907 -- Heidelberg man discovered

1908 -- Dawson (1908-1911) discovers first Piltdown fragments

1909 -- Dawson and Teilhard de Chardin meet

1912 -- February: Dawson contacts Woodward about first skull fragments

1912 -- June: Dawson, Woodward, and Teilhard form digging team

1912 -- June: Team finds elephant molar, skull fragment

1912 -- June: Right parietal skull bones and the jaw bone discovered

1912 -- Summer: Barlow, Pycraft, G.E. Smith, and Lankester join team.

1912 -- November: News breaks in the popular press

1912 -- December: Official presentation of Piltdown man

1913 -- August: the canine tooth is found by Teilhard

1914 -- Tool made from fossil elephant thigh bone found

1914 -- Talgai (Australia) man found, considered confirming of Piltdown

1915 -- Piltdown II found by Dawson (according to Woodward)

1916 -- Dawson dies.

1917 -- Woodward announces discovery of Piltdown II.

1921 -- Osborn and Gregory "converted" by Piltdown II.

1921 -- Rhodesian man discovered

1923 -- Teilhard arrives in China.

1924 -- Dart makes first Australopithecus discovery.

1925 -- Edmonds reports Piltdown geology error. Report ignored.

1929 -- First skull of Peking man found.

1934 -- Ramapithecus discovered

1935 -- Many (38 individuals) Peking man fossils have been found.

1935 -- Swanscombe man [genuine] discovered.

1937 -- Marston attacks Piltdown age estimate, cites Edmonds.

1941 -- Peking man fossils lost in military action.

1943 -- Fluorine content test is first proposed.

1948 -- Woodward publishes The Earliest Englishman

1949 -- Fluorine content test establishes Piltdown man as relatively recent.

1951 -- Edmonds report no geological source for Piltdown animal fossils.

1953 -- Weiner, Le Gros Clark, and Oakley expose the hoax.

In 1856 the first Neanderthal fossil discovery was made and the hunt was on to find fossil remains of

human ancestors. In the next half century finds were made in continental Europe and in Asia but not in

Britain. Finally, in 1912, the sun rose on British paleontology -- fossil remains of an ancient pleistocene

hominid were found in the Piltdown quarries in Sussex. In the period 1912 to 1915 the Piltdown quarries

yielded two skulls, a canine tooth, and a mandible of Eoanthropus, a tool carved from an elephant tusk,

and fossil teeth from a number of pleistocene animals.

There is a certain vagueness about some of the critical events. Dawson contacted Woodward about the first

two skull fragments which were supposedly found by workman "some years prior". Exactly when is

unknown. Similarly, the discovery of Piltdown II is shrouded in mystery. Supposedly Dawson and an

anonymous friend make the discovery 1915; however the friend and the location of the find are unknown.

The reaction to the finds was mixed. On the whole the British paleontologists were enthusiastic; the French

and American paleontologists tended to be skeptical, some objected quite vociferously. The objectors held

that the jawbone and the skull were obviously from two different animals and that their discovery together

was simply an accident of placement. In the period 1912-1917 there was a great deal of skepticism. The

report in 1917 of the discovery of Piltdown II converted many of the skeptics; one accident of placement

was plausible -- two were not.

It should be remembered that, at the time of Piltdown finds, there were very few early hominid fossils;

Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens were clearly fairly late. It was expected that there was a "missing

link" between ape and man. It was an open question as to what that missing link would look like. Piltdown

man had the expected mix of features, which lent it plausibility as a human precursor.

This plausibility did not hold up. During the next two decades there were a number of finds of ancient

hominids and near hominids, e.g. Dart's discovery of Australopithecus, the Peking man discoveries, and

other Homo erectus and australopithecine finds. Piltdown man did not fit in with the new discoveries.

None the less, Sir Arthur Keith (a major defender of Piltdown man) wrote in 1931:

It is therefore possible that Piltdown man does represent the early pleistocene ancestor of the

modern type of man, He may well be the ancestor we have been in search of during all these

past years. I am therefore inclined to make the Piltdown type spring from the main ancestral

stem of modern humanity...

In the period 1930-1950 Piltdown man was increasingly marginalized and by 1950 was, by and large,

simply ignored. It was carried in the books as a fossil hominid. From time to time it was puzzled over and

then dismissed again. The American Museum of Natural History quietly classified it as a mixture of ape and

man fossils. Over the years it had become an anomaly; some prominent authors did not even bother to list

it. In Bones of Contention Roger Lewin quotes Sherwood Washburn as saying

"I remember writing a paper on human evolution in 1944, and I simply left Piltdown out.

You could make sense of human evolution if you didn't try to put Piltdown into it."

Finally, in 1953, the roof fell in. Piltdown man was not an ancestor; it was not a case of erroneous

interpretation; it was a case of outright deliberate fraud.

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

Forging Fossils

From the chronology and the later reconstruction of events it is fairly clear that there never were any

significant fossils at the Piltdown quarry. It was salted from time to time with fossils to be found. Once the

hoax was exposed, Sir Kenneth Oakley went on to apply more advanced tests to find where the bones had

come from and how old they were. His main findings were:

Piltdown I skull: Medieval, human, ~620 years old.

Piltdown II skull: Same source as Piltdown I skull.

Piltdown I jawbone: Orangutan jaw, ~500 years old, probably from Sarawak.

Elephant molar: Genuine fossil, probably from Tunisia.

Hippopotamus tooth: Genuine fossil, probably from Malta or Sicily.

Canine tooth: Pleistocene chimpanzee fossil.

Originally it had been believed that one skull had been used; later, more precise dating established in 1989

that two different skulls had been used, one for each of the two skull "finds". The skulls were unusually

thick; a condition that is quite rare in the general population but is common among the Ona indian tribe in

Patagonia. The jawbone was not definitely established as being that of an orangutan until 1982. Drawhorn's

paper summarizes all that is currently known about the provenance of the bones that were used.

Not only were the bones gathered from a variety of sources, they were given a thorough going treatment to

make them appear to be genuinely ancient. A solution containing iron was used to stain the bones; fossil

bones deposited in gravel pick up iron and manganese. [It is unclear whether the solution also contained

manganese: Millar mentions that manganese was present; Hall, who did the tests for manganese, says that it

was not.] Before staining the bones (except for the jawbone) were treated with Chromic acid to convert the

bone apatite (mineral component) to gypsum to facilitate the intake of the iron and manganese (?) solution

used to stain the bones. The skull may have also been boiled in an iron sulphate solution. The canine tooth

was painted after staining, probably with Van Dyke brown. The jaw bone molars were filed to fit. The

connection where the jawbone would meet the rest of the skull was carefully broken so that there would be

no evidence of lack of fit. The canine tooth was filed to show wear (and was patched with chewing gum). It

was filled with sand as it might have been if it had been in the Ouse river bed.

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

How the hoax was exposed

With few exceptions nobody suggested that the finds were a hoax until the very end. The beginning of the

end came when a new dating technique, the fluorine absorption test, became available. The Piltdown fossils

were dated with this test in 1949; the tests established that the fossils were relatively modern. Even so, they

were still accepted as genuine. For example, in Nature, 1950, p 165, New Evidence on the Antiquity of

Piltdown Man Oakley wrote:

The results of the fluorine test have considerably increased the probability that the [Piltdown]

mandible and cranium represent the same creature. The relatively late date indicated by the

summary of evidence suggests moreover that Piltdown man, far from being an early

primitive type, may have been a late specialized hominid which evolved in comparative

isolation. In this case the peculiarities of the mandible and the excessive thickness of the

cranium might well be interpreted as secondary or gerontic developments.

In 1925 Edmonds had pointed out that Dawson was in error in his geological dating of the Piltdown

gravels: they were younger than Dawson had assumed. In 1951 he published an article pointing out that

there was no plausible source for the Piltdown animal fossils. Millar (p203) writes:

The older group of Piltdown animals, he said, were alleged to have been washed from a

Pliocene land deposit in the Weald. Edmonds thought there must be some misunderstanding.

There was no Pliocene land deposit in the entire Weald which could have produced them. the

only local Pliocene beds were marine in origin and lay above the five-hundred foot contour


In July 1953 an international congress of paleontologists, under the auspices of the Wenner-Gren

Foundation, was held in London. The world's fossil men were put up, admired and set down again. But,

according to Dr. J.S. Weiner, Piltdown man got barely a mention. He did not fit in. He was a piece of the

jig-saw puzzle; the right colour but the wrong shape. It was at the congress that the possibility of fraud

dawned on Weiner. Once the possibility had raised it was easy to establish that the finds were a fraud.

Millar writes:

The original Piltdown teeth were produced and examined by the three scientists. The

evidence of fake could seen immediately. The first and second molars were worn to the same

degree; the inner margins of the lower teeth were more worn than the outer -- the 'wear' was

the wrong way round; the edges of the teeth were sharp and unbevelled; the exposed areas of

dentine were free of shallow cavities and flush with the surrounding enamel; the biting

surface of the two molars did not form a uniform surface, the planes were out of alignment.

That the teeth might have been misplaced after the death of Piltdown man was considered but

an X-ray showed the lower contact surfaces of the roots were correctly positioned. This

X-ray also revealed that contrary to the 1916 radiograph the roots were unnaturally similar

in length and disposition.

The molar surface were examined under a microscope. They were scarred by criss-cross

scratches suggesting the use of an abrasive. 'The evidences of artificial abrasion immediately

sprang to the eye' wrote Le Gros Clark. 'Indeed so obvious did they [the scratches] seem it

may well be asked -- how was it that they had escaped notice before?' He answered his

question with a beautiful simplicity. 'They had never been looked for...nobody previously

had examined the Piltdown jaw with the idea of a possible forgery in mind, a deliberate


Why then was the fraud so successful? Briefly, (a) the team finding the specimans (Dawson, Woodward,

Teilhard) had excellent credentials, (b) incompetence on the part of the British Paleontological community,

(c) the relatively primitive analytical tools available circa 1920, (d) skill of the forgery, (e) it matched what

was expected from theory, and (f) as Millar remarks, the hoax led a charmed life.


As a matter of practice, a fraud or hoax is much more likely to succeed if it appears to be validated by an

authority. In general, one does not expect a professional in a field to concoct a hoax. Experience teaches

that this expectation is not always met.


Although the team had excellent credentials none was truly competent in dealing with hominid fossils; their

expertise lay elsewhere. The British museum people, Woodward and Pycraft, made numerous errors of

reconstruction and interpretation. The only expert in the expanded team, Grafton Eliot Smith, was

strangely silent about some of the errors.

Primitive analytical tools

It is hard for us today to fully grasp how primitive the analytical tools available to the paleontologists of

that time were. Chemical tests and dating techniques taken for granted today were not available. The

analysis of the details of tooth wear was less worked out. The simple knowledge of geology was much less

detailed. The importance of careful establishment of the provenance of fossils was not appreciated. In

short, the paleontologists of 1915 were an easier lot to fool.

Skill of the forgery

At the time there were virtually no hominid fossils finds except for some of the early Neanderthal finds.

The reconstruction of human evolution was very much an open question. The Piltdown specimens fit one of

the leading speculations. The forger knew what anatomical and paleontological tests the specimens would be


Meeting Theoretical Expectations

As Hammond points out, a key reason why the hoax succeeded was because it fit in very well with the

theories of the time. Boule had recently (erroneously) discredited Neanderthal man as being close to the

main hominid line (1908-1912). Elliot Smith felt that the large brain case would have developed first.

Sollas did not, but did strongly support mosaic evolution, i.e., features appearing in patches rather in a

smooth transition. It was his opinion that human dentition developed before the human jaw. Woodward and

others believed that eoliths (supposed very early stone tools) indicated the presence of an early, intelligent

hominid in England. Piltdown man, with his large braincase, his simian jaw, and his near human dentition

fit the theoretical picture.

Charmed Life

The hoax had a charmed life. Features that might have exposed the hoax didn't get caught because of small

errors in procedure. For example, the hoax would have been exposed immediately had a test of the jaw for

organic matter been made. Tests were made on the cranial fragments, but these were sufficiently well

mineralized to pass.

The X-rays taken were of poor quality, even for the time. The dentist Lyne pointed out the incongruity

between the heavy wear on the canine and its large pulp cavity, a sign of youth. This was interpreted as

secondary dentine formation, an explanation that "worked" because of the poor quality of the X-rays.

The erroneous wear pattern on the molars, which was obvious when Weiner looked at the casts, was never

noticed. Nor were they carefully examined under a microscope -- the abrasion marks would have been


[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

Who perpetrated the hoax?

Click here to go directly to the perpetrator list

Who did it? Who perpetrated the hoax? When the hoax was exposed nobody knew who the perpetrator was.

No one confessed to the deed. For forty odd years people have speculated about the identity of the culprit;

over time an impressive list of suspects has accumulated. The case against each suspect has been

circumstantial, a constellation of suspicious behaviour, of possible motives, and of opportunity. In this

section we present summaries of the arguments against the principal candidates.

A comprehensive listing of the accusations, when they were made, who made them, and who the accused

were can be found in Tom Turrittin's Piltdown man overview; it includes details not given here including

the particulars of 30 separate books or papers making accusations.

When the hoax was first exposed Dawson, Teilhard, and Woodward were the obvious suspects; they had

made the major finds. In 1953 Weiner fingered Dawson as the culprit. Stephen Jay Gould argued that

Teilhard and Dawson were the culprits. Woodward generally escaped suspicion; however Drawhorn made

a strong case against him in 1994. Grafton Elliot Smith and Sir Arthur Keith were prominent scientists that

played key roles in the discovery. Millar argued that Smith was the culprit; Spencer argued that it was a

conspiracy between Dawson and Keith. Other candidates that have been mentioned over the years include

Arthur Conan Doyle, the geologist W. J. Sollas, and the paleontologist Martin Hinton. This is by no means

the end of the list; other people accused include Hargreaves, Abbot, Barlow, and Butterfield.

This fraud is quite unique. Most scientific frauds and hoaxes fall into a few categories. There are student

japes, students conconcting evidence to fit a superior's theories. There are confirming evidence frauds, in

which a researcher fabricates findings that they believe should be true. There are outright frauds for

money, fossils that are fabricated for gullible collectors. There are rare cases of fabrication for reputation,

done in the knowledge that the results will not be checked. And, upon occasion, there are frauds concocted

simply as an expression of a perverse sense of humor.

The Piltdown hoax does not seem to fit any of these categories well. This was not an ordinary hoax; it was

a systematic campaign over the years to establish the existence of Piltdown man. The early skull fragments

were created in advance and salted with the foreknowledge that more extensive finds would be planted

later. The hoaxer had to have good reason to believe that the salted fossils would be found.

One of the critical factors in any theory is to account for the fact that the perpetrator had to be confident

that the salted fossils would be found. That suggests that either Dawson, Teilhard, or Woodward was

involved since they alone made the initial finds. At first sight it would seem that Dawson must have been

guilty since he made the initial find of the first two skull fragments. However he didn't! They were made

by anonymous workmen. The "find" could have been arranged for a handful of coins. As Vere pointed out,

the labourer Hargreaves, employed to do most of the digging, was also present at the site.

Another critical factor to be accounted for is access to the specimens that were used in the hoax. Likewise

the question of skill and knowledge required for the hoax must be taken into account.

Below are summaries of the cases to be made against the various possible perpetrators. At the moment this

section is very much under construction!

The candidates for perpetrator

Was it Abbot?

Was it Barlow?

Was it Butterfield?

Was it Dawson?

Was it Dawson and Keith?

Was it Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

Was it Hargreaves?

Was it Martin Hinton?

Was it Martin Hinton and others?

Was it Grafton Elliot Smith?

Was it W. J. Sollas?

Was it Teilhard de Chardin?

Was Woodward the perpetrator?

Back to perpetrator list

Was Abbot the forger?

Lewis Abbot, owner of a Hastings jewelry shop, friend of Dawson, and widely respected for his knowledge

of the geology of southern England. He was considered as a possibility by Weiner. Blinderman make a

major accusation against Abbot, based on an assessment of personality, requisite knowledge, and probable

access to the needed bones. The case, however, lacked any definite substance. Abbot has also been

mentioned as a possible co-conspirator in a number of accusations.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Barlow the forger?

Barlow was accused of being a co-conspirator with Dawson by Caroline Grigson, the curator of the

Ontodontological Museum. The accusation has not been taken seriously.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Butterfield the forger?

Butterfield, the curator at the Hastings museum, was accused by van Esbroeck of being the forger with

Hargreaves planting the forged fossils. The proposed motive is revenge over Dawson's appropriation of

some dinosaur fossils. There is no substantive evidence for this charge.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Dawson the sole forger?

Dawson is the obvious suspect. He made the initial find of the two skull fragments and the Piltdown II find.

In both of these critical discoveries there is no confirmation by another party. He was the one who made

the Piltdown quarry a special object of search. Indeed he is such an obvious suspect (Weiner seems to have

taken it for granted that Dawson was the forger) that the question is -- why consider any one besides

Dawson? Millar (p 226-7) argues against Dawson as the culprit as follows:

One of my main objections to the assumption that Dawson is inevitably the culprit is that as

the discoverer he was wide open to suspicion. He is too obvious a culprit... If the bogus fossil

excaped detection by his friends at the museum he surely could not have expected that it

would withstand scientific enquiry forever. I find it impossible to believe that Dawson would

pit his meagre knowledge of anatomy (if it is accepted that he had any at all) against that of

any skilled human anatomist... The threat of exposure would be perpetual.

As it was Piltdown man had a charmed life. Because of the poor quality of the original X-ray

photographs the bogus jaw remained undetected at the outset. Le Gros Clark has emphasized

that the forger's crude workmanship on the teeth was there for all to see if only someone had

looked for it.

Millar's argument sounds plausible but it doesn't stand up well. Dawson was a man of many interests, both

antiquarian and paleontological, and had numerous knowledgeable friends and acquaintances. The requisite

knowledge could readily have been acquired. The argument that he wouldn't have dared is suspect; there is

considerable evidence that Dawson had been involved in a number of forgeries and plagarisms; some of

which only came to light after Millar wrote. Walsh discusses a number of incidents:

The Beauport Statuette

The Blackmore flint weapon

The Bexhill boat

The Uckfield horseshoe

The Hastings clockface

The Dene Holes plagarism

The Iron Industry in Old Sussex plagarism

The Old Sussex Glass plagarism

The Hastings Castle plagarism

The Pevensey Brick

A critical point, which Walsh emphasizes, was the discovery of the jawbone by Dawson. Most of the other

bones were found in spill, dug up gravel which was searched later after having been dug up. The jawbone,

however, was found in situ by Dawson. He struck a blow into the hardpacked gravel and the jawbone

popped out (this was reported by Woodward). It would have been very difficult to bury the jawbone in the

hardpacked gravel convincingly; however no one except Dawson actually observed the purported

undisturbed location of the jawbone before it was found.

In retrospect it is hard to see how Dawson could not have been involved. Walsh argues strongly that

Dawson and Dawson alone was the culprit, that he had both the necessary knowledge and the requisite

character, and that his participation was physically necessary. Indeed, one might ask why someone

proposing to undertake such a fraud would risk having a co-conspirator. However it happens often enough

that people of similar inclinations recognize each other.

Back to perpetrator list

Were Dawson and Keith conspirators?

The following is an excerpt taken from a summary published by Robert Parson in the


In the late 1970's, Ian Langham, an Australian historian of science, began a comprehensive reevaluation of

the events surrounding the forgery. Langham was initially attracted to Ronald Millar's hypothesis that the

forger was Grafton Elliot Smith; however he later dropped this hypothesis and settled instead upon Sir

Arthur Keith. Langham died suddenly in 1984, before revealing his conclusions, and Frank Spencer, of the

Department of Anthropology at Queens College of the City University of New York, was appointed to

complete Langham's research. Spencer published his and Langham's conclusions in Piltdown: A Scientific


The centerpiece of the Langham-Spencer argument is an anonymous article that appeared in the British

Medical Journal on 21 December 1912, three days after the formal announcement of the discovery of

Piltdown Man at a Geological Society meeting. This article appears superficially to be a mere summary of

the meeting, but in fact it contains information (relating to the exact location of the site and to the history

of the discovery) that at that time was known only by the people actually involved in the digging. Arthur

Smith Woodward found this puzzling and wondered who the author had been and how he had learned about

these details, but never found out. 70 years later Ian Langham discovered that the author was Arthur Keith.

Moreover, Keith's diary showed that he had written the article three days before the meeting actually took

place. Keith was not a part of Woodward's inner circle at this time, and he had not been consulted by

Woodward on the discovery; indeed, he had only been allowed to view the specimens two weeks before the

official announcement, even though the existence of the find (though not the details) had been an open

secret for many weeks beforehand.

This discovery (and similar, more ambiguous documents) suggested to Langham a connection between

Dawson and Keith. Keith claimed to have met Dawson for the first time in January 1913, but Langham

found evidence that they had met at least three times during 1911-1912. He also noticed that Keith had

destroyed all of his correspondence with Dawson. Langham proposed that Dawson began to prepare the

hoax sometime between 1905 and 1910. In mid-1911 Keith was brought into it, and during the period

1911-12 Keith prepared the various specimens, Dawson planted them, and Dawson's team subsequently dug

them up.

The case against Keith is discussed in detail by Walsh. According to his analysis the circumstantial evidence

all has a natural and innocent explanation.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Arthur Conan Doyle the perpetrator?

The argument for Doyle was made in an article in Science in 1983 by the anthropologist John Winslow.

The Spring 1996 issue of Pacific Discovery has an excellent article by Robert Anderson on the Doyle

theory. Doyle was a neighbour of Dawson, was an amateur bone hunter, and participated briefly in the

digs. The principal arguments for Doyle as the culprit are circumstantial and literary; it has been argued

that The Lost World describes the execution of the hoax in veiled terms. Anderson argues that the exact

location of the planted fossils is spelled out in The Lost World as a puzzle. The essential weakness of the

case against Doyle is that it would not have been possible for him to have planted the bones with any

expectation that they would have been found. Walsh analyzes the case against Doyle in detail and finds it


The principal proponent of the Doyle theory,Richard Milner who is a historian of science from the

American Museum of Natural History, still holds Doyle was responsible. In a debate staged by the Linnaean

Society in March 1997 as part of National Science Week he argued the case for Arthur Conan Doyle and

against the case for Hinton.

Sir Arthur was a zealous spiritualist, embittered by the exposure and prosecution of Henry Slade, one of his

favourite psychics. It is suggested that Doyle sought to discredit the scientific establishment by faking

evidence of something they wanted to believe in thereby showing scientists knew less than they thought they


Back to perpetrator list

Was Hargreaves involved?

Hargreaves, the laborer who did most of the digging at the Piltdown site, was accused by Vere. There is no

direct evidence against him. However, unlike many others, he had real opportunity to plant the fossils. If

Dawson and Woodward were not involved he almost must have been involved.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Martin Hinton the perpetrator?

The May 23, 1996 edition of Nature presents the new case and a smoking gun (?) against Martin A. C.

Hinton, a curator of zoology at the museum at the time of the fraud. There are two finds of bones stained

and carved in the manner of the Piltdown fossils, a canvas travelling trunk marked with Hinton's initials

and glass tubes from Hinton's estate (Hinton died in 1961) which contained human teeth stained in various


The trunk was found in the mid-1970s, when contractors were clearing loft space in the British Museum.

The trunk contained hundreds of vials of rodent dissections (Hinton was a rodent specialist) and a collection

of carved and stained pieces of fossil hippopotamus and elephant teeth, as well as assorted bones, that

looked as if they belonged in the Piltdown collection.

The Nature article claimed that the teeth from the the estate, the contents of the trunk, and the Piltdown

remains were stained with the same chemical recipe, a mixture of iron, managanese and chromium. The

recipe appears to have been invented by Hinton and is based on a knowledge of post-depositional processes

affecting fossils in gravel. Hinton had published a paper in 1899 showing that fossils in river gravels would

be impregnated with oxides of iron and manganese, staining them a characteristic chocolate- brown colour.

The motive may have revenge in a quarrel about money or it may simply have been that Woodward was

irritatingly stuffy. Hinton was fond of and was famed for his elaborate practical jokes. Hinton was a

member of a circle of Sussex-based geologist colleagues and was an expert on the Weald geology. In 1954,

shortly after the exposure Hinton wrote a revealing letter to Gavin de Beer director of the British Museum

(Natural History):

The temptation to invent such a 'discovery' of an ape-like man associated with late Pliocene

Mammals in a Wealden gravel might well have proved irresistable to some unbalanced

member of old Ben Harrison's circe at Ightham. He and his friends (of whom I was one)

were always talking of the possibility of finding a late Pliocene deposit in the weald.

Andrew Currant, a researcher at the museum and Brian Gardiner, professor of palaeontology at King's

College, London, made the investigations into the Hinton evidence. Gardiner presented the case against

Hinton in his presidential address to the Linnean Society in London on May 24, 1996.

The case against Hinton is not what it seems. The motive suggested by Gardiner (a quarrel about money)

does not work because of timing; the incident in question happened in 1911; the first finds were in 1908.

More importantly the chemical analyses do not match. The Hinton samples include Manganese; the

Piltdown specimens do not. The Hinton samples do not contain gypsum (produced from the organic

material); the Piltdown specimens do. [Drawhorn, correspondence]. Walsh notes that there were legitimate

reasons for Hinton to have this material, including doing tests for Oakley. In any event it would have been

physically impossible for Hinton to have been the sole hoaxer because he did not have the requisite access to

the site in the 1912-1914 period.

Back to perpetrator list

Was it Hinton and others?

Although the physical evidence is ambiguous, Hinton's name pops up under a variety of odd circumstances

and it seems likely that he knew more that he should have, either by virtue of being a co-conspirator or by

virtue of special knowledge not publicly admitted.

In 1981 L. Harrison Matthews wrote a series of articles in the New Scientist on the Piltdown hoax. In

these article he suggested that Hinton believed the finds to be a hoax and that Hinton and Teilhard

manufactured and planted ridiculous forgeries to expose the hoax. In particular the Elephant bone tool was

a crude cricket bat, appropriate for "the earliest Englishman". This theory was repeated in 1982 in

Betrayers of the Truth by Broad and Wade, and in 1996 in The Common but Less Frequent Loon and

Other Essays by Keith S. Thomson.

L. Harrison Matthews described informal dinner conversations in the period 1945-51 during which Hinton

implied that "Piltdown was not a subject to be taken seriously" from which Matthews surmised that Hinton

"knew more about the hoax and the museum's part in it than he ever admitted". Other evidence referred to

by Matthews included Hinton's correspondence after the hoax was exposed and subsequent conversations in

which Hinton obliquely included himself in a small list of suspects. Matthews was sufficiently confident

about Hinton's involvement that he was the first to suggest the oft-repeated claim that the first finds were

due to Dawson and that in response, Hinton manufactured and planted ridiculous forgeries to expose the

hoax. This is a relatively honorable role for Hinton in comparison with sole hoaxer. It is clear that

Matthews respected Hinton, with whom he shared many wide-ranging and interesting conversations during

Hinton's retirement. It is likely that Matthews was unable to conceive of his friend being the initiator and

solely responsible for the fraud.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Grafton Elliot Smith the perpetrator?

Millar argues that Smith was the culprit. Smith was an expert anatomist, and a paleontologist with ready

access to a wide variety of fossils. He was suspiciously quiet when Woodward messed up the construction of

the Piltdown I skull. He "failed to recognize" that the cranial bones of Piltdown II belonged to Piltdown I

whereas Hrdlicka recognized that the Piltdown II molar came from Piltdown I after a brief examination.

Millar notes:

I have examined all of Smith's writings on the subject with care and in not one instance does

he fail to state carefully that his findings were based on the examination of a plaster cast of

the skull.

It is quite unlikely that Smith had not examined the actual skull fragments. Smith was in Nubia during most

of the discoveries; however he came to England at convenient points. Smith had the right kind of

personality. When Millar discussed the possibility of Smith with Oakley, Oakley was not surprised. There

is, however, no direct evidence against Smith. As with other "outsider" theories it was physically

impossible for Smith to have been the sole hoaxer.

Back to perpetrator list

Was W. J. Sollas the perpetrator?

W. J. Sollas was a Professor of Geology at Oxford and a bitter enemy of Woodward. He was accused in

1978 by his successor in the Oxford chair, J. A. Douglas, in a posthumously released tape recording. The

essential difficulty with this theory is to explain how Sollas (or another outsider) could have salted the

Piltdown site and be sure the fake fossils would be found. One also wonders why, if Sollas were the

perpetrator, he did not expose the hoax and thereby damaging Woodward's reputation. This could have

been done behind the scenes easily enough by asking the right questions.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Teilhard de Chardin the perpetrator?

In an essay reprinted in The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould argues the case for a conspiracy by

Teilhard de Chardin and Dawson. The case is circumstantial. The suggested motive is a student jape

(Teilhard was quite young at the time.) It was supposed that Teilhard did not have the opportunity;

however Gould shows that this was not necessarily so. Much of Gould's case rests on ambiguous wording in

Teilhard's correspondence. Certainly Teilhard is a plausible candidate for the mysterious friend who

helped discover Piltdown II. Gould argues that they had intended to blow the gaffe shortly after the initial

finds but that they were prevented from doing so by WW I. By 1918 things had gotten out of hand to the

point where the hoax could no longer be owned up to.

I do not think that Gould's assessment of motive stands up well. It is plausible that Teilhard might have

concocted a hoax; that is common for frisky students. However this fraud was planned and prepared years

in advance and was executed over an extended period of time; the nature of the execution of the fraud goes

well beyond the student jape.

The case against Teilhard is considered in detail by Walsh. He argues fairly convincingly that many of the

circumstances stressed by Gould have natural and plausible explanations.

Teilhard was also accused of being involved by L. Harrison Matthews who claimed that Teilhard planted

the fossil canine tooth in collaboration with Martin A.C. Hinton, with Teilhard subsequently "discovering"

the tooth. The evidence for this collaboration is that Hinton told his friend Richard Savage that Hinton and

Teilhard had visited the site together early in 1913. Matthews commented that Teilhard never mentioned

this visit, and subsequent developments have damaged Hinton's credibility regarding these clues.

Back to perpetrator list

Was Woodward the perpetrator?

Woodward seems to have escaped serious consideration, primarily because he was very much a "straight

arrow". However there is a strong case to be made against Woodward as a co-conspirator with Dawson.

The provenance of many of bones used in the construction of the Piltdown specimens has been established;

some were not at all readily available. Woodward, and apparently only Woodward, had professional access

to all of them. The main focus of Drawhorn's paper is a consideration of this question of the origin of the

specimens and who could have provided them.

Woodward had strong motives. He benefitted directly as co-discoverer of a monumental find. During the

period in question he was engaged in an ardent campaign for the position of Director of the BMNH, a

campaign in which his tactics were distinctly not "straight-arrowish". The finds directly confirmed the

orthogenetic theories that he was advocating.

Woodward's participation would explain many of the seemingly fortunate circumstances that allowed the

hoax to survive. For example, the hoax would have failed immediately if the jawbone had been tested for

organic material; it never was. Dawson, as a single hoaxer, could have arranged that only skull fragments

be tested initially. However it was Woodward who kept Keith from testing the Piltdown specimens even

though he had used Keith's services before and after. It was Woodward who carefully restricted access to

the specimens. At no time did Woodward give the specimens the careful physical examination that would

have exposed the hoax. The vagueness about the location of the second find is peculiar. At one point he

designated the site as being at a particular farm on the Netherfield side of the Ouse; later he "forgot" this

and designated it as being on the Sheffield Park side, location unknown. Millar remarked on the "charmed

life" of the hoax. Perhaps the charmed life was stage managed.

It has been argued that Woodward's correspondence with Dawson establishes his innocence. This is not so.

If Woodward were a conspirator their correspondence would have been artifacts, part of the hoax. It

should be remembered that copies of Museum correspondence were kept as part of the official record. For

many years afterward Woodward returned to the Piltdown site for further digs; nothing was found. This

may be the best argument for his innocence.

Although a strong case against Woodward can be made it is not definite. It is impossible to prove that

Dawson did not have access to all of the specimens used to construct the hoax. Woodward's "errors" could

have been unfortunate incompetence.

Back to perpetrator list

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

Myths and misconceptions

Piltdown man has been the focus of many myths and misconceptions, many of which are assiduously

repeated by creationists for whom Piltdown man is a popular club with which to assail evolution. They


[It's all the British Museum's fault]

[The hoax was swallowed uncritically]

[500 doctoral theses were written on Piltdown man]

[This is a good example of Science correcting itself]

[The hoax was unimportant]

It's all the British Museum's fault

Gould and others have criticized the British Museum for keeping the fossils "under wraps". suggesting that

the hoax might have been exposed much earlier. It is true that access to the fossils were restricted. This is

normal practice for rare and valuable fossils. However it is doubtful that this "security" protected the hoax.

The fossils were available for examination. The tests that exposed the hoax could have been performed at

any time. The single most important thing that protected the hoax from exposure was that nobody thought

of the possibility. However in reading the history of the find it is clear that the leading paleontologists had

access to the Piltdown man specimans. For example, Hrdlicka examined them; his rejection of the mandible

and cranium being from the same animal was based on direct examination. Following the revelation of the

fraud Martin Hinton, Deputy Keeper in the Dept. of Zoology at the British Museum. wrote to the Times:

Had the investigators been permitted to handle the actual specimens, I think the spurious

nature of the jaw would have been detected long ago.

Wilfred Le Gros Clark, a member of the team that exposed the forger, wrote to Hinton reminding him that

Woodward had in fact allowed other specialists to examine the originals. The charge seems to have stuck,

however. (Frank Spencer, The Piltdown Forgery, p. 149).

It does seem to be the case that access to the fossils was quite restricted in later years. In his

autobiographical book By the Evidence Leakey said when he saw Piltdown in 1933:

I was not allowed to handle the originals in any way, but merely to look at them and satisfy

myself that the casts were really good replicas. Then, abruptly, the originals were removed

and locked up again, and I was left for the rest of the morning with only the casts to study.

Back to myths and misconceptions

The hoax was swallowed uncritically

This is a half truth; almost no one publicly raised the possibility of a deliberate hoax. There were rumors

circulating, however. William Gregory, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History wrote

in Natural History in May of 1914:

"It has been suspected by some that geologically [the bones] are not that old at all; that they

may even represent a deliberate hoax, a negro or Australian skull and a broken ape jaw,

artificially fossilized and planted in the grave bed, to fool scientists."

He went on, however, to vigorously deny the charge, concluding

"None of the experts who have scrutinized the specimens and the gravel pit and its

surroundings has doubted the genuineness of the discovery."

In general, however, the finds were accepted as being genuine fossils but were not accepted uncritically as

being from an ancient human ancestor. There was an early and recurring doubt that the jaw and the skull

were from two different animals, that the jaw was from an archaic chimpanzee and that the skull was from

a relatively modern human being. Notable critics include Dr. David Waterston of King's College, the

French paleontologists Marcellin Boule and Ernest Robert Lenoir, Gerrit Miller, curator of mammals at

the Smithsonian, and Professor Ales Hrdlicka.

Initially there were many more critics, e.g. Osborn. However the finding of the second skull converted

many of the critics. Finding a jaw from one animal near the skull of another might be an accident of

juxtaposition -- two such finds is quite unlikely to be an accident. Some critics, e.g. Lenoir and Hrdlicka

remained unconvinced none-the-less.

The following quote comes from a "The Evolution of Man", a 1927 book by Grafton Elliot Smith:

"Yet it [the skullcap] was found in association with the fragment of a jaw presenting so close

a resemblance to the type hitherto known only in Apes that for more than twelve years many

competent biologists have been claiming it to be the remains of a Chimpanzee."

Franz Weidenreich in 1946, in his book "Apes, Giants, and Men" (Note that Weidenreich was an extremely

respected scientist, having done most of the work on the Peking Man skulls):

In this connection, another fact should be considered. We know of a lower jaw from the

Lower Pleistocene of southern England which is anatomically, without any doubt, the jaw of

an anthropoid. The trouble is that this jaw, although generally acknowledged as a simian jaw,

has been attributed to man because it was found mixed with fragments of an undoubtedly

human brain case. I am referring to the famous Piltdown finds and to Eoanthropus, as the

reconstructed human type has been called by the English authors... Therefore, both skeletal

elements cannot belong to the same skull.

It should also be mentioned that in 1950 Ashley Montagu and Alvan T. Marston mounted major attacks on

the interpretation of the Piltdown fossils as being from a single animal.

Back to myths and misconceptions

500 doctoral dissertations were written on Piltdown man

This claim appears in creationist sources. Gary Parker's pamphlet "Origin of Mankind", Impact series

#101, Creation-Life Publishers (1981) makes the claim without qualification or source. Lubenow's Bones

of Contention (1992) remarks that it is said that there were 500 doctoral dissertations but does not give a


This claim is clearly in error. When one considers the small number of PhD's in paleontology being

granted currently and the even smaller number 80 years ago and the diversity of topics chosen for PhD

theses a figure of half a dozen seems generous; in all probability there were none whatsoever. John Rice

Cole notes that in the 20s there were about 2 dissertations per year in physical anthropology in the entire

US on ANY topic.

Robert Parson made a systematic search of the bibliographies of The Piltdown Forgery by Weiner, The

Piltdown Inquest by Blinderman, Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery and The Piltdown Papers by Spencer,

The Antiquity of Man (1925) and New Discoveries Relating to the Antiquity of Man (1931) by Sir

Arthur Keith. Spencer and Keith's works have extensive references and bibliographies of the primary

research literature. There are no references to any doctoral dissertations. Likewise Millar's bibliography

contains no references to any doctoral dissertation.

It is not clear whether this claim is a simple fabrication or whether it is an erroneous transcription from

another source. In the introduction to The Piltdown Men (1972), Millar says "it is estimated that some

five hundred essays were written about [Piltdown man]". This estimate is credible, the 1920 edition of H.G.

Wells' The Outline of History remarks "more than a hundred books, pamphlets, and papers have been

written [about Piltdown Man]". W. & A. Quenstedt listed over 300 references in 1936 in Hominidae

fossiles. Fossilium Catalogus I: Animalia, 74: 191-197.

Millar gives no source, evidently not considering the matter to be important enough to document. However

it probably was the editorial in the 10 July 1954 issue of Nature (vol. 274, # 4419, pp. 61-62) which

describes a meeting of the Geological Society (30 June 1954) devoted to the exposure of the hoax. The

editorial (unsigned) says:

"It is agreed that the skull fragments are human and not of great antiquity; that the jawbone is

ape; that they have no important evolutionary significance. More than five hundred articles

and memoirs are said to have been written about Piltdown man. His rise and fall are a

salutary example of human motives, mischief and mistake."

By coincidence, Spencer's The Piltdown Papers (1990) contains 500 letters, i.e. 500 items of

correspondence between Piltdown principals. However this cannot be the source of the number 500 since

The Piltdown Papers appeared well after Parker's pamphlet and Millar's book.

The most plausible explanation for this myth is that Millar and Parker both used the same source, the

Nature editorial, and that Parker assumed that papers and memoirs were dissertations. In turn Lubenow's

source was probably the Parker pamphlet. The truth, however, is unknown.

Back to myths and misconceptions

This is a good example of Science correcting itself

It has been argued that this is a good example of science correcting its errors. This argument is a bit

roseate. As the Daily Sketch wrote:

Anthropologists refer to the hoax as 'another instance of desire for fame leading a scholar

into dishonesty' and boast that the unmasking of the deception is 'a tribute to the persistence

and skill of modern research'. Persistence and skill indeed! When they have taken over forty

years to discover the difference between an ancient fossil and a modern chimpanzee! A

chimpanzee could have done it quicker.

Far from being a triumph of Science the hoax points to common and dangerous faults. The hoax succeeded

in large part because of the slipshod nature of the testing applied to it; careful examination using the

methods available at the time would have immediately revealed the hoax. This failure to adquately examine

the fossils went unmarked and unnoticed at the time - in large part because the hoax admirably satisfied the

theoretical expectations of the time.

The hoax illuminates two pitfalls to be wary of in the scientific process. The first is the danger of

inadequately examining and challenging results that confirm the currently accepted scientific interpretation.

The second is that a result, once established, tends to be uncritically accepted and relied upon without

further reconsideration.

Back to myths and misconceptions

The hoax was unimportant

Robert Parson pointed out in a posting that the Piltdown hoax was a scientific disaster of the

first magnitude. He said:

Piltdown "confirmed" hypotheses about our early ancestors that were in fact wrong -

specifically, that the brain case developed before the jaw. The early Australopithecine fossils

found by Dart in South Africa in the 1920's failed to receive the attention due to them for

this reason. The entire reconstruction of the history of the evolution of humanity was thrown

off track until the 1930's.

Prominent anthropologists, such as Arthur Smith Woodward, Arthur Keith, and Grafton

Elliot Smith, wasted years of their lives exploring the properties of what turned out to be a

fake. The lingering suspicion that one of them might have been involved in the forgery will

cloud their reputations forever.

More than five hundred articles and memoirs were written about the Piltdown finds before the hoax was

exposed; these were all wasted effort. Likewise articles in encyclopedias and sections in text books and

popular books of science were simply wrong. It should be recognized that an immense amount of

derivative work is based upon a relatively small amount of original finds. For many years the Piltdown

finds were a significant percentage of the fossils which were used to reconstruct human ancestry.

It is a black mark on science that it took 40 years to expose a hoax that bore directly on human ancestry.

Creationists have not been slow in pointing to the hoax, the erroneous reconstructions based on the hoax,

and the long time it took to expose the hoax.

Back to myths and misconceptions

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]



[Abbot] [Barlow] [Butterfield] [Dawson] [Doyle] [Edmonds] [Gould] [Hinton] [Hargreaves] [Keith] [Smith]

[Matthews] [Teilhard] [Weiner] [Woodward]

Who the players were

Lewis Abbot was a jeweler in Hastings. He knew Dawson since 1900 through the Hastings museum. He

was an authority on Wealdan flora and fauna and its ancient gravels and, more generally, the geology of

southern England. Weiner described him as "fiery, bombastic, inspiring and weird."

Frank O. Barlow was a staff member of the British Museum of Natural History. He prepared plaster casts

of the Piltdown skull.

William Butterfield was the curator at the Hastings museum. Ordinarily of calm and placid temperament,

he quarreled with Dawson over Dawson's appropriation of some dinosaur fossils for the British Museum.

Raymond Dart held the chair of Anatomy in the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He

discovered Australopithecus (Taung baby) and was the principal early exponent of an African origin for


Charles Dawson was an amateur archaeologist, geologist, antiquarian, and was a collector of fossils for

the British museum. He was the original person to seriously search for fossils in the Piltdown quarry. In

1912 he and Woodward discovered the the first Piltdown skull. In 1915 he discovered the second skull. He

died in 1916 shortly after the finds.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a neighbor of Dawson's and had an interest in paleontology. At one point he

participated in the Piltdown digs. He was the victim of the "fairies in the garden" hoax. Doyle wrote The

Lost World and a number of popular mysteries.

F. H. Edmonds was a British geologist in the Geological Survey. His papers in 1925 and 1951 cast doubt

respectively on the assigned age of Piltdown man and on there being a plausible source for Piltdown animal


Stephen Jay Gould is a paleontologist at Harvard University. Gould and Niles Eldredge introduced the

"punctuated equilibrium" theory. Gould is the author of a number of popular collections of essays. He has

suggested that Teilhard de Chardin was the author of the hoax.

Venus Hargreaves was the workman who assisted Dawson, Woodward, and Teilhard deChardin in the

Piltdown digs.

Martin A. C. Hinton was a member of the Sussex circle of paleontologists before the hoax and a curator

of zoology at the British Museum at the time of the fraud. He was an expert on the effect of deposition of

fossils in gravel. Hinton was noted for his practical jokes.

Sir Arthur Keith was an anatomist and paleontologist, keeper of the Hunterian collection of the Royal

College of Surgeons, and president of the Anthropological Institute.

L Harrison Matthews was an eminent English biologist who wrote an influential series of articles in New

Scientist in 1981 in which it was postulated that Dawson planted the original finds and Hinton, with the aid

of Teilhard, planted the later objects. Matthews was a friend of Hinton.

Grafton Elliot Smith was a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1909 became the holder of the chair of

anatomy at the University of Manchester. Smith had made a special study of fossil men. He was one of the

select crew that participated in the Piltdown dig.

W. J. Sollas was a Professor of Geology at Oxford. He was acerbic, ecentric, and a bitter enemy of

Woodward and of Keith.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a friend of Dawson, a Jesuit, a paleontologist, and a theologian. He

participated in the discovery of Peking man and Piltdown man. He is popular for his theological theories

which are considered heretical by the Catholic church.

J. S. Weiner was an eminent paleontologist. In 1953 he realized that Piltdown man might have been a

hoax. J.S. Weiner, Sir Kenneth Oakley and Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark jointly exposed the hoax.

Sir Arthur Smith Woodward was the keeper of the British Museums's Natural History Department and

was a friend of Dawson. His specialty was paleoichthyology. His subordinate, W.P. Pycraft, who was in

charge of the anthropology section which dealt with fossil humanity, was an ornithologist. Neither was

knowledgable about human anatomy, a fact which facilitated the hoax.

[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]


This section lists major sources. Tom Turrittin's bibliography page is a comprehensive post 1953

bibliography of Piltdown man material.

The Piltdown Inquest, C. Blinderman, Prometheus 1986

Betrayers of the Truth, Broad and Wade, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-671-44769-6, 1982, focuses on

scientfic frauds and other hanky panky, including a section on Piltdown man.

The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould, W.W.Norton and Company, New York, contains the essay

"Piltdown Revisited" which gives Gould's views on the hoax.

A Framework of Plausibility for an Anthropological Forgery: The Piltdown Case, Michael Hammond,

Anthropology, Vol 3, No. 1&2, May-December, 1979.

The Antiquity of Man, Sir Arthur Keith,2nd edition, 2 vols., Williams and Northgate, London 1925.

Volume 2 devotes about 250 pages to Piltdown man, with many references to primary research literature.

New Discoveries Relating to the Antiquity of Man, Sir Arthur Keith, Williams and Northgate, London

1931. Page 466 contains the cited material.

Bones of contention: a creationist assessment of human fossils, M.L. Lubenow, Grand Rapids, MI, Baker

Books, 1992. (the best creationist book on human fossils)

Piltdown Man-The Missing Links, L. Harrison Matthews, a series of articles in New Scientist from 30

April 1981 through 2 July 1981.

The Piltdown Men, Ronald Millar, St. Martin's Press, New York, Library of Congress No. 72-94380,

1972, 237 pages + 2 appendices + an extensive bibliography.

Piltdown: a scientific forgery, Frank Spencer, Oxford University Press, London 1990, ISBN 0198585225,

xxvi, 272 p. : ill., ports. ; 25 cm.

The Piltdown Papers, Frank Spencer, Oxford University Press, London 1990, ISBN 0198585233, xii, 282

p. : ill. ; 25 cm. The second book is a collection of archival materials that Spencer investigated in his

research. His book is based in part on research of Ian Langham; Langham died in 1984 and Spencer was

asked to finish the investigation.

Unravelling Piltdown, John Evangelist Walsh, Random House, New York 1996, ISBN 0-679-44444-0,

219p, 38p of notes, selected bibliography, index.

The Piltdown Forgery, J. S. Weiner, Oxford University Press, London, 1980, is a republication of the

1955 edition.

The Earliest Englishman, A. S. Woodward, Watts and Co. London, 1948, is Piltdown man's last hurrah in


Web pages

Piltdown man appears in a number of web pages, mostly as an arguing point in pages expounding

creationism and in pages refuting creationist claims. Piltdown man apparently also the name of a rock

group. Related web pages include:

As part of a thesis project Tom Turrittin created a comprehensive bibliography of references to the

Piltdown man hoax since its exposure in 1953. He has made this material available on the web in the form

of two pages. One page contains the full bibliography; the other contains an overview, including material

on "whodunit" theories which is more thorough than the coverage here. The page links are the mirrored

copy of the overview, the mirrored copy of the bibliography, the original copy of the overview, and the

original copy of the bibliography. These pages were last revised January 27, 1998.

The Talk.Origins Archive is a general resource for issues relating to evolution and creationism. Jim

Foley's fossil hominids page is an excellent overview of what is known about fossil hominids. There is a

page on Piltdown man.

The Origins of Mankind Web Links page is a resource page for human evolution.

Bonnie Sklar's anthropology pages includes a page on Piltdown man; it's focus is on the anthropological


The Piltdown man page appears in The Skeptic's Dictionary, a collection of essays about popular

pseudoscience topics. It relies heavily on Gould.

The Piltdown Forgery contains a book review of J.S. Weiner's book on the hoax.

Donald Simanek has a copy of the May 1996 Nature article about Gardiner and Currant's case against


Doug Lundberg has a page on the Nature article accusing Hinton.

Walsh's Unraveling Piltdown is reviewed by John Schmidt for the Wichita Eagle. It is also reviewed by

Orson Scott Card.

The Museum of Unnatural Mystery has a Piltdown page briefly covering the major players. It has a photo

of Hinton and Dawson.

Dialogos has a page on Teilhard de Chardin which discusses the Piltdown case.

The fall 1996 page of McGraw Hill's on-line magazine, Physical Anthropology Update, has an update on Gardiner's accusation of Hinton.

Andrew Hudson, a resident of Sussex has a page of links to Piltdown man pages. He commends the wines of the Barkham Manor Vineyard which occupies the site of the "discovery". The Barkham Manor Vineyard maintains the historic marker; their page has a small map of the area.

The Reader's Corner site has an extensive page on the Doyle theory entitled The Softer Side of Murder,

The Strange Case of Piltdown Man which is well worth reading. There is also a short summary of the case

against Hinton.

The following is an incomplete list of sites with links to this page:

Piltdown Man Andrew Hudson

Pretty Polly's list of People who have Chiggers

Creationist Arguments: Piltdown Man

Links Daniel Howell

Paleoanthropology Links

Selected Scientists and Inventors

Science Philip R. "Pib" Burns

Piltdown Hoax Robert T. Carrol

Trolls, Hoaxes, Culture Jamming, Poetic Terrorism, Media Hacks

The Creation Concept Douglas Cox

D. Formenti links: ANTHROPOLOGY

Donald Simanek's Page

Piltdown Man (Mirrored Copy)

Neal Thomsen's Home Page

Sites involving Fossil Man and Human Evolution

The Softer Side of Murder, The Strange Case of Piltdown Man

Natural History Exhibits and Resources

Anthropology Links

The Evolutionary Tales: Rhyme and Reason on Creation/Evolution

The Genus Homo: H. Erectus and Early H. sapiens

NM's Creative Impulse ... Prehistory

Prehistoric Cultures, University of Minnesota

Z100--Fakes, Hoaxes, Scams and Forgeries: The Culture of Inauthenticity

Scientific Hoaxes

Antropología y Arqueología

Internet Resources From The Mining Company

The Floorman's Bookmarks

Stu and Andi's Roscoe Page


Mac The Knife: Mid-Knife at the Oasis

Don Lindsay's Piltdown Man Page

Jonsson´s & Sidwall´s Surfpage to ScienceNews and Human Origins

The 'Lard Ridges' Pages (links page)

The Ultimate Creation/Evolution Website

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Literary Agent


[Intro] [History] [How?] [Exposure] [Who?] [Myths] [People] [References] [Web Sites]

This page was last updated January 27, 1998.


Philip L. Stein & Bruce M. Rowe

Number 4 Fall 1996


Copyright ©1997 by McGraw-Hill, Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. The entire contents or parts

of this Update may be reproduced for use with Physical Anthropology, Sixth Edition, or Physical Anthropology: The Core, by

Philip L. Stein and Bruce M. Rowe, provided each reproduction bears the copyright notice. The publisher's written permission

must be obtained for other use.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, page 357; Physical Anthropology:

The Core, Chapter 8, page 209.

I n 1912, Charles Dawson found skull fragments in association with the fossilized remains of large

mammals such as mastodons in a site on Piltdown Common, England. The remains became known as

Piltdown Man.

In 1953, the Piltdown skull was declared a hoax. When the bones were subjected to fluorine analysis,

they found that the cranium material contained less fluorine than did the bones of other extinct animals

found with it, and that the mandible was that of a modern orangutan. The culprit who had masterminded

the hoax had filed down the canine teeth, and had stained the bones to make them appear to be of the

same age as known prehistoric animals. These diverse fragments were then secretly placed in the sites.

Who perpetrated this dastardly deed? Over the years several persons have been named including Arthur

Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who lived near Piltdown Common and was a known


This past May, Professor Brian Gardiner of King's College, London, announced to the Linnean Society

that the perpetrator has been finally unmasked. It was Martin A. C. Hinton, a curator of zoology at the

Natural History Museum in London, who specialized in the study of fossil rodents.

A canvas travelling trunk belonging to Mr. Hinton was discovered in the southwest tower of the

museum. Inside were several bones and teeth, all carved and stained in the same manner as the bones

placed in the Piltdown site. Professor Gardiner believes that Mr. Hinton, a well-known practical joker,

created the hoax to embarrass Arthur Smith Woodward, Keeper of Geology at the museum, as revenge

over a pay issue.

However, as is all too common in anthropological circles, not everyone totally agrees. The

announcement by Gardiner has brought forward new commentary (see Sources). The definitive

solution of the mystery may be yet to come.


Sources: H. Gee, "Box of Bones 'Clinches' Identity of Piltdown Palaeontology Hoaxer, Nature, 381

(23 May 1996), 261-262. Comments on the announcement have appeared by E. T. Hall, Nature, 381

(27 June 1996), 728; and W. J. Dempster, Nature, 382 (18 July 1996), 202.




A nyone who has been teaching evolutionary biology for awhile probably has had to field answer

students' questions about creationism, especially when shows such as The Mysterious Origins of Man

are seen on television (NBC, Fall 1996). It is difficult for even an experienced instructor to argue

against misinformation presented in the mass media where it is given an aura of scientific respectability.

Assistance can be obtained from The National Center for Science Education by visiting their web site at



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 16, pages 406, 418;Physical Anthropology: The

Core, Chapter 10, pages 238, 248.

I n the last edition of the Update, we reported on a new australopithecine fossil found at the site known

as KT 12. Located in the region of Bahr el Ghazal near Koro Toro in the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti

Province of northern Chad, this specimen extends the range of the australopithecines 2500 kilometers

(1550 miles) to the east of the previously-known range. The find is associated with other animal fossils

that have been dated between 3.5 and 3.0 million years old. The fossil, KT 12/H1, is a fragment of an

adult mandible, and it includes the crowns of several teeth.1

At the time of the announcement, paleoanthropologists had not as yet decided whether these differences

represent a geographical variant of Australopithecus afarensis, or represent a new australopithecine

species. Last May, Michel Brunet, who discovered the new fossil, announced that further analyses has led

him and his colleagues to place the specimen into a new australopithecine species Australopithecus



1 M. Brunet, et al., "The First Australopithecine 2,500 Kilometers West of the Rift Valley (Chad),"

Nature, 378 (16 November, 1995), 273-275.

2 "Ancient Ancestor-New Name," Science, 272 (31 May 1996), 1271.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 478, 482-484; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 275, 289-291.

I n Jean Auel's novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, we find both Neandertals and anatomically modern

humans living side by side, aware of each other's existence, and even occasionally interacting with one

another. However, there is no agreement among paleoanthropologists as to the real relationship between

the two populations. If they were indeed contemporary, some scholars see a very rapid replacement of

the Neandertals by modern humans, while others see a more gradual replacement over a period of time.

If the latter view is correct, we can then speculate about the nature of Neandertal-modern relationships.

The answer to these problems may lie in layer Xb of the French site of Arcy-sur-Cure which has been

dated by radiocarbon dating to 33,820 0.720 B.P. This layer contains a bone and ivory industry which

includes a number of personal ornaments that belong to the early Upper Paleolithic industry called the

Châtelperronian. The Châtelperronian, found in northern Spain and central and southwestern France,

includes an Upper Paleolithic blade technology associated with a developed Middle Paleolithic bone


Layer Xb at Arcy-sur-Cure has also yielded a hominid temporal bone fragment from a one-year-old

infant. High-resolution computed tomography has been used to visualize the bony labyrinth of the inner

ear within this temporal bone, as well as to visualize the bony labyrinth of specimens of H. erectus and

anatomically modern H. sapiens. Although the specimen is that of an infant, the structure of this part of

the anatomy is established in the fetus, and it can be reliably compared with other adult specimens.

The Neandertal bony labyrinth consists of anterior and posterior semicircular canals that are smaller

than those of both earlier H. erectus and later H. sapiens. The posterior canal also lies in a distinctive

relative position. Based on this analysis, the temporal bone fragment found at Arcy-sur-Cure, which is

dated at around 34,000 B.P., belongs to a Neandertal; it is one of the youngest known Neandertal


This evidence implies that the Neandertals and anatomically modern H. sapiens coexisted over a

significant period of time. The presence of Upper Paleolithic artifacts in association with Neandertals

suggest several possibilities about their relationships, such as diffusion of Upper Paleolithic technology

to Neandertal populations, or what is more likely, some type of trade. However, evidence also confirms

the idea that the two populations remained reproductively isolated during this period.


Source: J. Hublin, F. Spoor, M. Braun, F. Zonneveld, and S. Condemi, "A Late Neanderthal Associated

with Upper Palaeolithic Artefacts," Nature, 381 (16 May 1996), 224-226.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 469-486; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 274-279, 289-291.

T he humerus of the arm that holds the racquet of the professional tennis player is about 60 percent

thicker than the other arm. In people who do not vigorously exercise with one arm, the asymmetry is

only about 5 percent. Bone thickness, as well as the internal structure of bone, is affected by use.

Calculations of the amount and distribution of bone in a cross-section of bone leads to an estimation of

the weight that bone can bare.

Recent research has been concluded on the arms and legs of the Neandertals. The investigators concluded

that when corrected for body size and proportions, Neandertal legs were no more robust than those of

modern humans--yet their upper arms were significantly more robust. Their greater arm strength may

not have been advantageous according to Neandertal specialist Erik Trinkaus. Indeed, the increased

strength may be symptomatic of inefficient behavior.

Trinkaus believes that Neandertals and modern humans who lived in the same habitats and had similar

tools had different behavioral patterns. These different patterns led to different functions of their upper

bodies. He argues that Neandertals worked harder to process food because they chose food that was

harder to process; they also may not have used their tools efficiently. Other evidence seems to support

this conclusion. Neandertals exhibit more wear on their front teeth than modern peoples. This suggests

that they used their teeth as vices to hold objects rather than using tools.

Trinkaus goes on to say that differences in the development of the Neandertal and modern human pelvis

indicate differences in social patterns. The femoral neck, which articulates with the pelvis, shows

significant differences which might reflect patterns of use. The femoral neck is vertical to the shaft of

the femur at birth. The more active a child, the more the femoral neck bends inward and downward

with increasing age. The shape of the Neandertal femur suggests that Neandertal children were more

active than early modern children. Nean dertal children may have had to follow adults around as the

adults foraged for food.

In this scenario, early modern human children remained at a home base, and they were cared for by

adults who were not involved in foraging for food. This behavior may have lowered infant and child

mortality. Trinkaus suggests that the inefficient use of tools and the physical demands on children may

have been reasons for that the Neandertals lost out to modern humans. Of course, not all

paleoanthropologists agree with Trinkaus' hypotheses.

Reference: Gibbons, A., "Did Neandertals Lose an Evolutionary 'Arms' Race?" Science, 272 (14 June

1996), 1586-1587.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 18, pages 483-484; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 11, pages 290.

H umans are not by nature cave-dwelling animals, as caves are dark, often damp, and quite

uncomfortable. Prehistoric peoples did inhabit the mouths of caves, but rarely did they venture into their

deep interiors. In fact, what are often called "caves" are not caves at all, but rock shelters or rock


An important exception was recently reported. A cave at Bruniquel, located in southern France, has

yielded the first evidence of Neandertals using the deep interior of a cave. The site is dated to at least

47,600 years ago; this was a time when the only hominids living in Europe were Neandertals. A complex

quadrilateral structure has been found hundreds of meters from the cave entrance, but archaeologists are

not sure what this structure is. Burnt bones of a cave bear indicate that humans were present in the cave.

Until this find came to light, it was generally thought that the earliest use of deep interiors of caves was

the result of the activities of totally modern people which started about 30,000 years ago with the

painting of pictures on cave walls. Also, if Neandertals were constructing complex geometric structures

and making portable light sources, they may have had abilities for precise and complex communication.

This bolsters the idea that Neandertals had linguistic and social organizational abilities similar to those of

modern peoples.


Source: M. Balter, "Cave Structure Boosts Neandertal Image," Science, 271 (26 January 1996), 449.


See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, page 385; Physical Anthropology:

The Core, Chapter 9, page 222.

P aleoanthropologists working in southern Jiangsu Province, China, defined the new extinct primate

family Eosimiidae in 1994. Members of this family date from the middle Eocene. The only species of

eosimiid described at that time was Eosimias sinensis. The hypothesis that E. sinensis was an early

anthropoid was strongly criticized by many paleontologists; some even doubted that the fossil was a


In May 1995, a new eosimiid species was found. This new species is Eosimias centennicus from the

Eocene of southern Shanxi Province, China. The new fossils are important because they include evidence

of the entire dentition. Like the earlier discovery, E. centennicus was very small; it probably weighed

between 91 and 179 grams (3.2 and 6.3 ounces) or about the size of a modern pygmy marmoset.

Analysis of the teeth suggests that the diet consisted of fruits with some insects.

Detailed analysis of the dentition confirm that the eosimiids are indeed very early anthropoids. The

authors suggest that the eosimiids are a group of primates distinct from the Adapids, Omomyids, and

Tarsiiforms. The evidence also supports the idea that since the anthropoids were well established by the

middle Eocene, their origins must lie further back in time.


Source: K. C. Beard, et al., "Earliest Complete Dentition of an Anthropoid Primate from the Late

Middle Eocene of Shanxi Province, China," Science, 272 (5 April 1996), 82-85.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, pages 386-387; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 9, pages 225-226.

A complete skeleton of a Pleistocene monkey was excavated in 1992 in Toca de Boa Vista, a large cave

in the state of Bahia, Brazil. The skeleton was placed into the species Protopithecus brasiliensis. This

species was named in 1836 when a partial femur and partial humerus were recovered from a site in the

state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The animal is estimated to have weighed 25 kilograms (55 pounds), which

is heavier than any New World monkey living today.

The skeleton resembles the living members of the family Atelidae that includes the modern howler,

spider, and woolly monkeys. The skull exhibits the large hyo-laryngeal apparatus and related features

that are unique to the howler monkeys. On the other hand, the postcranial skeleton resembles that of the

spider monkeys which are specialized for New World semibrachiation.


Source: W. C. Hartwig and C. Cartelle, "A Complete Skeleton of the Giant South American Primate

Protopithecus," Nature, 381 (23 May 1996), 307-311.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 15, pages 393-396; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 9, pages 229-234.

A hominoid partial skull, dating from about 10 million B.P., has been recovered from the Upper

Miocene Sinap Formation of central Turkey. The fossil skull presents evidence of facial, mandibular,

and dental features that include a relatively narrow interorbital region, moderately developed brow

ridges, square orbits, and robust mandible. Postcranial bones have also been found but have not yet been


The skull has be placed into the species Ankarapithecus meteai. This species was previously represented

by a mandible and a lower face. The new skull (AS95-500) is believed to be an adult female while the

earlier material is through to be male.

The age of the skull is thought to be around 9.8 million B.P. based upon the geomagnetic reversal time

scale. The material is contemporary with other Miocene hominoids including Ouranopithecus

macedoniensis, Dryo- pithecus laietanus, and Sivapithecus. The species shows a mosaic of features;

some resemble the orangutan while others resemble the African great apes. The authors conclude: "The

combination of characters in AS95-500 link together the European Middle and Late Miocene fossil apes

in the genera Dryopithecus, Ouranopithecus and Ankarapithecus as stem members of the great ape

and human clade and do not provide evidence for relationships with either the African apes or



Source: B. Alpagut, et al., "A New Specimen of Ankarapithecus meteai from the Sinap Formation of

Central Anatolia," Nature, 382 (25 July 1996), 349-351.

1 Ibid., p. 351.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 505-506; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12, pages 306-307.

A n area of major controversy in American archaeology is over the date and nature of the first human

occupation of the New World. The earliest reliably dated Paleoindian sites are those of the Clovis culture

which dates about 11,200 to 10,900 B.P. These early peoples of the North American plains are seen as

big-game hunters who used specialized fluted stone spear points. From this center, people moved down

the Andes Mountains of South America.

Generally, the great tropical forests of South America are seen as uninhabitable until the advent of

horticulture. The presence of triangular points in the Amazon basin suggest that the tropical forest was

occupied at an early date, but the lack of a stratified site and good radiometric dating has made it

difficult to reach any firm conclusions.

Recently, archaeologists located stratified Paleoindian deposits in association with a painted sandstone

cave at Caverna da Pedra Pintada in the state of Monte Alegre, Brazil. From the Paleoindian strata, they

recovered 24 tools and over 30,000 flakes which represent tool-making activity. The tools included

triangular, stemmed bifacial points. The presence of red pigment that was chemically identical to the

pigment used in the rock paintings strongly suggests that the paintings date from the Paleoindian period.

Thousands of carbonized fruits and wood fragments were also found. These provide evidence as to the

food resources of the occupants of the site. One familiar food resource is the Brazil nut. Remains of

bone and shell testify to a diverse diet obtained from animal sources.

Both conventional and the accelerator mass spectrometry method of radiocarbon dating was used to date

many plant samples. The authors estimate that the site was first occupied from about 11,200 to 10,500


The archaeologists conclude that Paleoindians occupied the South American rain forest contemporary

with the Paleoindian occupation of the North American plains. This suggests that the migrations of the

early migrants to the New World were more complex than has been assumed. It also suggests the

possibility of several waves of migrations. Finally, the evidence also demonstrates the ability of

prehorticultural peoples to survive in tropical rain forest habitats.

Source: A. C. Roosevelt, et al., "Paleoindian Cave Dwellers in the Amazon: The Peopling of the

Americas," Science, 272 (19 April 1996), 373-384.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 496-497; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12, page 301.

A rchaeologists agree that the aboriginal inhabitants of the New World migrated from Asia to North

America across the Bering Land Bridge. During the times when large Pleistocene glaciers developed on

land, the level of the ocean dropped sufficiently to expose a large expanse of land connecting the two

continents; this land is covered today by the waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Paleobotanical data,

combined with the remains of insects, have been recovered from 20 cores taken from the floor of these


Analysis of the data suggests that what is now ocean floor was dry land as recently as 11,000 years ago,

and that the summer temperatures were warmer than they are today. It appears that the land at that time

was a tundra which is similar to that found in Arctic Alaska today. Although animal resources were

available for food, it was a harsh and difficult landscape.


Source: S. A. Elias, et al., "Life and Times of the Bering Land Bridge," Nature, 382 (4 July 1996),




See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 492-497; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12 pages 297-301.

T here have been many studies in the past decade where molecular data has been used to show that

anatomically modern humans originated and migrated out of Africa. The best-known is perhaps the

"Mitochondrial Eve" hypothesis. A new study of a section of chromosome 12 appears to agree with

previous genetic studies; it suggests that modern humans evolved between 200,000 and 120,000 years

ago and then migrated out of Africa.

A segment of chromosome 12 known as the Alu deletion, has numerous variations in Africa; the

number of variations decreases from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa. The assumption is that the

greater the number of variations there are for a genetic character, the older that character must be. The

relative lack of variation in Europe indicates that a small population from Africa moved into Europe

relatively recently, about 100,000 years ago.

As with other studies of human ancestry based on comparative genetics, the time estimates are based on

assumed mutation rates. And as with other studies, there are researchers who are not convinced by the

interpretations of the data. Although the information seems to best conform to the replacement model of

modern human origins, some paleoanthropologists state that the information is not inconsistent with the

regional continuity model. Small local populations could lose variation through genetic drift over time,

or they may never have been characterized by variation in some traits.


Source: Tishkoff, S. A., et al., "Global Patterns of Linkage Disequilibrium at the CD4 Locus and

Modern Human Origins," Science, 271 (March 8 1996), 1380-1384.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 9, pages 207-208 and 217-219, and

Chapter 13, pages 336-339; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 5, pages

112-113 and Chapter 6, pages 164-167.

B iologists are interested in the evolutionary relationships among the various organisms that inhabit the

earth. Traditionally, taxonomists classify organisms on the basis of anatomical and physiological

similarities. Many of these similarities are established through subjective observation, and the

significance of certain features may vary from one scholar to the next. Today comparative studies on the

molecular level are producing new insights into the evolutionary history of major categories of life.

In early 1996, two studies were published that dealt with the relationships among living organisms. We

know that life in the form of simple cells was established by at least 3.5 billion years ago. However, the

fossil record of early unicellular forms of life is very poor. When did the major forms of life first


Russell F. Doolittle and his colleagues attempted to shed light on this issue by using a "molecular

clock."1 This "clock" is based upon the rate at which proteins change over time. The investigators

utilized the amino acid sequences from 57 different enzymes which are proteins; within these proteins

they used 531 different amino acid sequences. Although many assumptions were made, they suggest that

modern eukaryotes and bacteria share a common ancestor at around 2 billion years ago, and that the

divergence of plants and animals took place about 1 billion years ago.


1 R. F. Doolittle, et al., "Determining Divergence Times of the Major Kingdoms of Living Organisms

with a Protein Clock," Science, 271 (26 January 1996), 470-477.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, pages 364-370; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 8, page 214.

P aleontologists have generally concluded that placental mammals began to diversify only after the

extinction of the last dinosaurs, 65 million years ago. This mammalian adaptive radiation was made

possible in part by the vacancies in ecological niches that followed the demise of the dinosaurs. Now

there is evidence that one group of mammal, the ungulates, began to diversify 85 million or more years


The superorder Ungulata includes several living and extinct orders of mammals including animals as

diverse as the elephants, whales, and deer. Fossils discovered in Uzbekistan, part of the former Soviet

Union, and dated at 85 million B.P., may represent early ungulate ancestors. Although a major

mammalian adaptive radiation occurred after the extinction of the dinosaurs, a smaller radiation had

taken place much earlier.


Source: Archibald, D. J., "Fossil Evidence for a Late Cretaceous Origin of 'Hoofed' Mammals,

Science, 272 (24 May 1996), 1150-1153.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 9, pages 217-219, 217-219, and

336-339; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 5, page 117.

O n page 219 of Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, there is a diagram (Figure 9-14) illustrating the

evolutionary relationships among the mammals. The diagram shows a close relationship between the

order Lagomorpha (rabbits and hares) and the Rodentia (squirrels, beavers, mice and porcupines). This

is the traditional view of biologists.

Based upon anatomical and fossil evidence, the Lagomorpha and Rodentia are usually classified together

into the superorder Glires. The superorder Glires is thought to have emerged during the very rapid

mammalian adaptive radiation that occurred in the early Paleocene. Close by on the evolutionary tree is

the closely related suborder Archontia that includes the primates along with tree shrews, flying lemurs,

and bats.

The classification of the lagomorphs has an interesting history. The Old Testament places them with the

ruminants, the cud-chewing hoofed mammals. While Linnaeus placed them as a family with the order

Rodentia, he stressed the very close relationship that he saw between the two groups. Now a recent

study, based upon the analysis of protein sequences, says that all of this is untrue.1 In fact, not only are

the rodents and lagomorphs not closely related enough to belong in a single suborder, the lagomorphs

are actually closer to the primates than they are to the rodents.

Of course, the new study is not conclusive, and the correct picture will not emerge for some time. The

most important consequence of the new data will be to stimulate new studies on the evolutionary

relationships among mammalian groups both on the molecular and anatomical level.


1 D. Graur, L. Duret, and M. Gouy, "Phylogenetic Position of the Order Lagomorpha (Rabbits, Hares

and Allies)," Nature, 379 (25 January 1996), 333-335.



See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 14, pages 363-370; Physical

Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 8, pages 212-215.

F or well over 200 years the Linnaean system of classification has been the recognized way to classify

living organisms. Linnaeus based his classification on the physical resemblances among organisms, and

not on evolutionary relationships.

Recently, the concept of cladistics is being used to emphasize different levels of evolutionary

relationships among organisms. However, cladistics is not a classification system per se, nor does it offer

a systematic way of naming organisms.

Now, several biologists are proposing a different way of classifying organisms based strictly on

proposed common ancestors. For example, in the Linnaean classification, reptiles and birds are placed

into separate classes, but phylogenetic studies indicate that birds should be included within the reptiles.

The proponents of the new system say that the Linnaean system often leads people to assume

evolutionary relationships that do not exist, and that they miss evolutionary relationships that do exist.

Source: E. Pennisi, "Evolutionary and Systematic Biologists Converge," Science, 273 (12 July 1996),




See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 19, pages 509-510, and 336-339;

Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 12, pages 310-311.

T he history of wine making is now 2000 years older than was previously reported. A pottery jar has

been recovered from the site of Hajji Firuz Tepe, a Neolithic village in the northern Zagros Mountains

of Iran. The jar was manufactured between 5400 and 5000 B.C.

The archaeologists found a yellowish residue inside the vessel. Chemical analysis determined that the

residue consisted of the calcium salt of tartaric acid and the yellowish resin of the terebinth tree which

was used in antiquity. A similar residue has been found in Egyptian jars that are associated with written

records identifying them as containing wine.

Tartaric acid occurs in large amounts in grapes. Terebinth resin is soluble in alcohol, and it was added to

inhibit the growth of bacteria that concert wine into vinegar; it also masks any foul taste or odor.

The site exists in an area that, in ancient times, supported both wild grape and later early domesticated

grape. Terebinth trees also grow through the region.

The site of Hajji Firuz Tepe was a very early Neolithic settlement. There was evidence of domesticated

plants and animals, and the development of many crafts including the manufacturing of pottery. The jar

was found in the kitchen area of a building made of mud bricks.


Source: P. E. McGovern, et al., "Neolithic Resinated Wine," Nature, 381 (6 June 1996), 480-481.


See Physical Anthropology, 6th edition, Chapter 4, pages 80-90 and Chapter 7, page

154; Physical Anthropology: The Core, Chapter 2, pages 43-48.

I n the 1996 movie Jack, Robin Williams portrays a child who aged rapidly. By the time Jack was 10

he looked like a man of 40. Although it differs from the situation in the movie in many ways, an

abnormality that causes premature aging does actually exist.

Wermer's syndrome is characterized by premature aging. Unlike Jack, the rapid aging does not become

apparent until the person is in his or her twenties. At this time, several features normally found in older

people appear. These features include heart disease and cancers, grey hair, wrinkled skin, cataracts, and

other characteristics associated with older age.

In April 1996, researchers announced the discovery of the gene that causes Wermer's syndrome. It is a

mutation that interferes with the proper repair and replication of DNA along with other regulatory

effects on the proper action of DNA. Although geneticists estimate that about 70 percent of human genes

can affect aging in some way, they hope that knowledge gained from research on the gene responsible

for Wermer's syndrome might ultimately lead to the development of methods to slow down aging, cure

cancer, and cure Werner's syndrome.


Sources: Ellis, N., "Mutation Causing Mutations," Nature, 381 (May 9, 1996), 110-111; Jazwinski, M.

S., "Longevity, Genes, and Aging," Science, 273 (5 July 1996), 54-59; Pennisi, E., "Premature Aging

Gene Discovered," Science, 272 (12 April 1996), 193-194; and Yu, C-E, et al., "Positional Cloning of

the Werner's Syndrome Gene," Science, 272 (12 April 1996), 258-262.


A new species of marmoset has been recently discovered in the Brazilian rain forest. It is the sixth new

marmoset species discovered since 1990. The new primate has been named Callithrix saterei for a local

Indian group.

Los Angeles Times, June 20, 1996, B2.

T here has been a delay in the study of the Grotte Chauvet while the French Ministry of Culture

pondered the question of who was to conduct the initial research on this important Upper Paleolithic site.

Discovered in December 1994, the site contains the oldest known cave paintings. Archaeologist Jean

Clottes has been named to head the project which will begin in a few months. Meanwhile, the story of

the discovery of Grotte Chauvet along with colored photographs and descriptions has been published:

J-M Chauvet, E. B. Deschamps, and Ch. Hillaire, Dawn of Art: The Chauvet Cave (London: Thames

and Hudson, 1996).

L ife may have evolved over 4 billion years ago, but animals evolved much more recently. Although

comparative molecular studies suggest an origin of animals about 1 billion years ago, the earliest

generally accepted fossil evidence of animals goes back only 590 million years. Now two investigators

suggest that the origin of animals may have been triggered by a major increase in atmospheric oxygen

sometime between 1 billion and 543 million years ago.

D. E. Canfield and A. Teske,

"Late Proterozoic Rise in Atmospheric

Oxygen Concentration," Nature, 382, 127-132.

A new study of Mousterian stone tools, dated around 40,000 B.P., suggests that compound tools were

being made in the Middle Paleolithic; this is earlier than was previously believed. Traces of bitumen, a

substance used to glue rock to a handle or shaft, were found on stone artifacts found in Syria. If these

tools were indeed hafted, then one distinction between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic has been


Prehistorians have visualized the Upper Paleolithic as being more complex and varied than the Middle

Paleolithic. One of the complexities of the Upper Paleolithic, which begins at around 35,000 years ago,

is hafting. Now it appears that hafting also occured in the earlier period.

Boëda, E., "Bitumen as a Hafting

Material on Middle Paleolithic Artifacts,"

Nature, 380 (28 March 1996), 336-338.

I n 1991, a partially freezed-dried body of a man was found at an elevation of 3200 meters (10,500 feet)

in the Italian Alps. The 5300-year-old body was thought to be that of a 25-to 40-year-old man at death.

New analyses now suggests that he was much older, perhaps 60 years old.

A cid rain has had a major negative effect on forests, streams, and lakes. Even though sulfur emissions

from factories and other sources will have been reduced by about 50 percent by the year 2000 compared

to 1980, ecosystems are not recovering as fast as predicted.

The problem appears to be that the acid rain has been destroying large quantities of basic ions, such as

calcium ions, that neutralize the acid in the soil. These basic ions are essential for plant growth. The ions

are not being replaced from the weathering of rocks and minerals fast enough to quickly return soils to

their preindustrial health. In fact, even if we continue to cut emissions that cause acid rain, it could be

decades or even centuries until that preindustrial state is reestablished.

J. Kaiser, "Acid Rain's Dirty Business:

Stealing Minerals from the Soil,"

Science, 272 (12 April 1996), 198.




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