Kenneth F. Oakley and J. S. Weiner
British Museum (Natural History) and University of Oxford
American Scientist October 1955 xx
 The remarkable story of Piltdown Man began 43 years ago when Charles Dawson, country solicitor and amateur archaeologist and geologist brought to the Natural History Museum in London and handed to Smith Woodward, Keeper of Geology, a number of specimens. These included fragments of thick human skull bones, chocolate brown in colour, some fossilized hippopotamus and early elephant teeth and some crude flint tools. They had been found, he said, as a result of workmen digging gravel for paths at Barkham Manor, Piltdown, not far from Uckfield in Sussex. The gravel was an ancient river deposit, reputed to be 80 feet above the present river level, where in fact remains dating from near the beginning of the Ice Age were to be expected according to local geological opinion at that time. Woodward agreed to join Dawson in carrying out excavations at the site at the end of May and during June 1912. As a result more specimens were found including a fragment of ape-like jawbone with two teeth, still more bits of skull, several fossil animal teeth and bones, several flint tools-and later on a remarkable bone implement. Scrappy though the remains were they presented a remarkably complete picture of a fossil man, his tools, contemporary animals, in gravel dating possibly from early in the Ice Age or even just before.
But there were difficulties. Trouble arose at the first scientific meeting at which Dawson's discovery was described-a meeting of the Geological Society of London in December 1912. The dispute was about Woodward's conclusion that the cranial bones and jaw both belonged to a single individual-whom he called Eoanthropus, The Dawn Man - a strange mixture of man and ape. Woodward gave many good reasons why he thought that the jaw must belong to the brain-case even though, as he pointed out, it was very like an ape's, while the brain-case was certainly very human. Despite this extraordinary combination we must agree about the logic of his conclusion based on the evidence available to him. His belief that a new fossil ancestor of man had indeed been found was bold and courageous and at the time scientifically justifiable.
Woodward's argument ran as follows. All the remains in the gravel were found very close together-within a yard or so of each other. The lower jaw and the brain-case were very similar in appearance. They were both of a similar brown color, and also apparently in the same state of fossilisation. The jaw, even though ape-like, did have some important human features, particularly in the teeth. The molar teeth had apparently been worn to a flatness never seen in apes, and only to be expected if the jaw had belonged to a type of human being. The roots  of the teeth (as seen in the X-ray pictures of the time) were also much more like those of human teeth. And finally, the appearances of this ape-like man at the beginning of the Ice Age was just what many authorities had expected to find.
In July 1913 a new specimen was found, a canine tooth, ape-like, but worn in a way never found in modern apes. This was strong support for Woodward's interpretation.
For all that, controversy continued to rage as to whether it was really correct to link the jaw and the brain-case. Woodward's opponents-first Professor David Waterston of King's College, London, and next Dr. Gerrit Dr. Miller in America and Prof. Boule in France-were not convinced. They could not see how anatomically the jaw could have worked as part of a human skull when it was constructed in so very different a way. But the opposition case was a good deal weaker than Woodward's. They could not explain the extraordinary wear of the teeth. The opponents also had to explain the amazing coincidence of finding, in one place close together, a brain-case without a jaw, and a jaw without a brain-case, all apparently in the same state of preservation. But they decided it was a coincidence, astonishing though it seemed. They maintained that there were two different fossils there, a fossil man, and a fossil ape, both of an extreme antiquity.
But this view was dealt a severe blow when the remains of a second Piltdown Man were reported in 1915 as coming from a place about two miles away from the first site. Here again there were pieces of thick brain-case like those found at the original site, and with them a molar tooth, again similar to those in the jaw of the first Piltdown Man. From now on Woodward's ideas held the field and most scientists agreed with. him. In those days the climate of scientific opinion was extremely favour-able to the view that the human ancestor would show such a combination of features of ape and man. It seemed quite feasible, therefore, that a human ancestor should have pronounced chimpanzee characters such as large projecting eye-teeth. Darwin had even sketched such a type hypothetically. And what made it all the more acceptable was that there was nothing to contradict it in the few other human fossils known at the time. Piltdown Man fitted in rather well as a more primitive being than either Java Man or Heidelberg Man.
But he began to fit in less and less well as a lot more human fossils were found in Java and China and South Africa. They all differed from Piltdown Man in their skull characters. Their brain cases were far more ape-like than his, and their jaws decidedly less so. They formed a fairly consistent line of evolution if Piltdown Man was left out. Still, as long as the apparent extreme age of Piltdown Man remained unquestioned, this situation could he accepted. Why should there not be two lines of human evolution, one arising from Piltdown and the other from a different ancestral type.