Making The Piltdown Man


Missing Link Found!

Ape-Men Fact or Fallacy?:

A critical examination of the evidence

M. Bowden 1977






[1] Headlines such as these in newspapers throughout the world have heralded the discovery of a variety of fossil bones, ever since the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859.

With so much publicity surrounding these fossils, scientists specialising in this subject, and the general public, assume the evidence supporting the ape-man links to be so substantial as to establish them beyond any reasonable doubt.

But are they right?

In this book I have examined the 'credentials' of those fossil discoveries which are said to be the main links between man and that animal ancestor which he has in common with the apes. Except for one letter (p35), only published works have been used, and a series of composite pictures have been built up, in which many conflicting factors become apparent. Whether there is room for doubt regarding the far reaching claims made for many of these fossils will be left for the reader to judge as the evidence is laid before him.

It can doubtless be argued that the study of fossil bones is an advanced and highly technical science, and criticism by one whose qualifications are not in this particular field is of no value. To this I would reply that no matter how technically involved a field of enquiry may be, in order to be entitled a 'science' it must be seen clearly to conform with the basic principles of scientific investigation. These would include such fundamental considerations as:

(i) the presentation of all the relevant evidence,

(ii) the interpretation should encompass all the available evidence and as far as possible be free from any preconceptions,

(iii) the rejection of any hypothesis which is contradicted by any of the evidence.

I have endeavoured to show that the interpretation, which has been superimposed upon many fossil remains, does not comply with one or more of the basic criteria given above. Assessment of whether the evidence and theories conform with these fundamental requirements does not need any special scientific expertise, and the layman's judgement can be as valid as that of the expert. Much research is condensed [2] and summarised for presentation in popular works, but when criticising any particular aspect, it is often necessary to refer to the original papers, sometimes in detail. I have tried, however, to set out any complex issues as clearly as possible, so that the reader is easily able to grasp the various points being discussed.

I have only the highest regard for eminent scientists of undoubted integrity, who study fossils, write reports, and carry out very highly skilled tests in the course of their work. However, in the particular field of fossil man, I do question the very speculative assumptions made, and the far-reaching conclusions based upon very meagre evidence. It must be remembered that the 'fossil hunter' has often a subconscious desire to fit his discoveries to his preconceptions whether or not they are in line with current expert opinion. On this, I can do no better than quote Vayson de Pradenne, who was Director of the École des Hautes Études, and Professor at the École d'Anthropologie, and Professor at the École d'Anthropologie. In his book Fraudes Archéologiques, published 1925, he gives a hypothetical instance of an archaeologist finding two types of artefacts, coarse and highly finished, in the same excavation. Assuming that the coarser articles were earlier, and at a lower level, he will class them according to type and not by the stratum in which they were found. Finding an advanced implement at a low level, he will assume that it reached there accidentally, and he will class it with the others at the higher level. De Pradenne concludes:

He will end with real trickery in the stratigraphic presentation of his specimen; trickery in aid of a pre-conceived idea, but more or less unconsciously done by a man of good faith whom no one would call fraudulent. This case is often seen, and if I mention no names it is not because I do not know any.

I All emphasis in italics in quoted passages are by the author of this book, unless otherwise noted.

2 Reference numbers of publications are given in the bibliography.

3 As an indication of the scale of illustrations of fossils, a distance of 10 cm. is indicated by two vertical marks, and 5 cm. by two dots.


[3] The Piltdown Forgery

Ever since the publication of the fraudulent nature of the fossil remains discovered at Piltdown in I912, various efforts have been made to unravel the mystery of the identity of the hoaxer. Despite several publications being produced on this topic, no convincing solution has been provided so far, and the whole affair has remained an enigma to this day.

The conjunction, however, of a few small, but vital, pieces of evidence, hitherto virtually unnoticed, focuses considerable suspicion upon one person who has hardly been considered seriously by previous investigators. Furthermore, they raise a number of questions which reach beyond that quiet corner of the Sussex Downs, which was the centre of interest that excited our forefathers over sixty years ago.

Unravelling the intricate strands of evidence is far from easy, and several digressions have to be made in order to examine particular aspects of the mystery surrounding both the original discoveries and the subsequent research which exposed them as frauds.

The drama, for such it is, involves a number of people, and I will at this stage introduce the principal characters and the parts which they play.

The main excavators at Piltdown were:

Charles Dawson, a solicitor, living at Uckfield, and an amateur archaeologist and historian (Fig.1)

Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, F.R.S., Keeper of the Geological Department, British Museum, and a friend of Dawson. (Fig.2)

Pierre Tei/hard de Chardin, student at the Jesuit College, Ore Place, Hastings from 1908.

Ordained there in 1911. (Fig.3)

Other friends of Dawson, who worked at the pit at various times, included:

S. Woodhead, a public analyst,

R. Essex, M.Sc., a science master at Uckfield Grammar School,

A. S. Kennard, an amateur but expert palaeontologist.

Three acquaintances of Dawson who knew of the discoveries, and suspected him of planting some fraudulently stained fossils were:

Major Marriot

Capt. Guy St. Barbe.

H. Morris, an amateur collector.

[4] A notable expert who studied the fossils carefully was,

Sir Arthur Keith, F.R.S., Hunterian professor of the Royal College of Surgeons.

The finds were made in the drive leading to Barkham Manor, owned by a friend of Dawson, Mr. R. Kenward, who lived there with his daughter,

Miss Mabel Kenward , who is still living.

The fraud was exposed in 1953, and reports on the subject were written by:

Professor K. P. Oakley, of the British Museum (Natural History).

Sir Wilfred Le Gros Clark, Professor of Anatomy, Oxford.

Dr. J. S. Weiner, M.A., M.Sc., Ph.D., M.R.C.S., Reader in Physical Anthropology, Oxford.

Dr. Weiner wrote a book about the hoax entitled The Piltdown Forgery, in which he claimed that Dawson was the most likely culprit. He interviewed all those connected with the original discovery who were still alive, namely, Teilhard de Chardin, Sir Arthur Keith, R. Essex, and Miss Kenward. Weiner's accusation of Dawson was refuted by Miss Kenward, and her friend,

Francis Vere, an author and historian living at Piltdown, who wrote and broadcast in Dawson's defence.
Having met the main characters, we will now examine the tangled web of evidence and suspects involved in what must surely rank as the most notorious scientific fraud of all time.



Charles Dawson was an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist, who had made a number the unusual historical finds in the Kent and Sussex areas. Seeing workmen digging in a trench in about 1906-8, he asked them to keep an eye open for anything of archaeological interest. In 1908, one of the workmen struck and shattered what he thought was a coconut, but later realized was part of a fossilized skull. A piece of it was handed to Dawson, who continued excavating in the trench with various friends for several years. In 1911 he found another skull piece which fitted the first piece he had been given, and in 1912 he took them to his friend, Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, F.R.S., Keeper of the Geological Department of the British Museum. According to letters which Dawson wrote to Woodward, he had also found some other fossils, including a tooth of a hippopotamus. Woodward, in his book, said that Dawson had found five skull pieces, flint tools and teeth of hippopotamus and elephant before he visited Woodward.


Dawson, Woodward, Chardin

On Saturday, 2nd June 1912, Smith Woodward and Dawson began excavating in the trench. Assisting them was Teilhard de Chardin, who is well known today for his philosophical writings, which [5] attempt to reconcile and combine the theory of evolution with the Christian faith. During the first day of the excavation, another piece of the skull was found by Dawson and a piece of an elephant's molar by Teilhard. On a later occasion, whilst Woodward was watching Dawson digging, a half jaw 'flew out' from the excavation close to the spot where a flint tool had been found. Eventually, a total of nine cranium pieces were collected, which, when fitted together, were very much like a modern human skull, but much thicker than average. The jaw, however, closely resembled that of an ape, but the teeth in it were flat topped, which is a human characteristic. That both cranium and jaw belonged to the same individual was assumed, and this was thought to indicate that man's brain had developed in advance of the rest of the skeleton. The skull bones discovered are illustrated in Fig.4 whilst Fig. 5 gives the names of the main human skull bones and teeth for general information.

During this season's dig (the trench was flooded during the winter months), they found another piece of the Pleistocene elephant's tooth (later considered to be Elephas planifrons ) and teeth of hippopotamus, mastodon and beaver, as well as several flint tools, one of the tools being found by Teilhard.

In December 1912, the findings were presented to a packed meeting of the Geological Society in London. A number of experts, however, were not convinced, as the brain case was too human, compared with the very ape-like characteristics of the jaw. Unfortunately, the jaw was broken and the canine tooth was missing. Had this tooth been found, it would have clearly indicated whether the jaw was human or ape-like. In apes the canines are pointed, whereas human canines are flatter. Woodward was convinced that this tooth could be found, and even made a model of the tooth to show how it would look.

In honour of its discoverer, the skull was named Eoanthropus dawsoni (Dawson's Dawn man).



Pieces of Piltdown Scull


Features of Human Skull and Teeth

The canine tooth

On 29th August, Teilhard de Chardin stayed overnight with Dawson and went with him and Woodward to the Piltdown pit the following day. Woodward wrote the following eyewitness account of the finding of the missing canine tooth:

For some time, we had been making an intensive search for the missing teeth of the lower jaw round the spot where the half of the jaw was found. We had worked and sieved much of the gravel, and had spread it for examination after washing by rain. We were then excavating a rather deep and hot trench in which Father Teilhard, in black clothing, was especially energetic and, as we thought, a little exhausted; we suggested that he should leave us to do the hard labour for a time while he had comparative rest in searching the rain-washed gravel. Very soon [7] he exclaimed that he had picked up the missing canine tooth, but we were incredulous and told him we had already seen several bits of ironstone which looked like teeth, on the spot where he stood. He insisted, however, that he was not deceived, so we both left our digging to go and verify his discovery. There could be no doubt about it, and we all spent the rest of the day until dusk crawling over the ground in the vain quest for more. 38p11

The discovery was reported at a meeting in December 1913, which mentioned the finding of a third piece of 'Stegodon' (Elephas) tooth, a beaver's incisor, a fragment of a rhinoceros tooth, and the turbinal nose bones of the skull.

The finding of the tooth, which was partially flattened as in humans, convinced many scientists that the jaw and cranium were from the same individual. It did much to strengthen the importance of the finds. Further excavations, in 1914, resulted in the discovery of some teeth of rhinoceros and mastodon, and more important, part of an elephant's thigh bone, which looked rather like a 'bat' or club (Fig.6), apparently shaped as some form of tool.


Elephant and Piltdown fossils


The Piltdown II site

In addition, in a field two miles away, usually referred to as the Piltdown II site, two pieces of thick cranium and a molar tooth were found by Dawson (Fig.7). In his 1917 report, Woodward said:

One large field, about 2 miles from the Piltdown Pit, specially attracted Dawson's attention, and he and I examined it several times without success during the spring and autumn of 1914. When, however, in the course of farming, the stones had been raked off the ground and brought together in heaps, Mr. Dawson was able to search the material more [8] satisfactorily,; and early in 1915 he was so fortunate as to find here two well-fossilized pieces of human skull and a molar tooth, which he immediately recognised as belonging to at least one more individual of Eoanthropus dawsoni.43p144

These discoveries further strengthened the case for the Piltdown man, as it indicated that the finds at Piltdown I were supplemented by the discovery of another individual some distance away. However, it is almost certain that one of the cranium pieces came from the same skull that was being discovered at Piltdown I site. In addition, there is no record of when the discoveries were made and even the field in \which they were found cannot be identified with any certainty. The whole of the circumstances surrounding the finds at Piltdown II is veiled in the mists of obscurity.




In 1950, the fluorine test was applied to the skull and jaw to check if they were of the same age, and to what stratum they should be attributed. The tests confirmed that they could both be attributed to the middle or probably upper Pleistocene Age. These tests, however, were completely contradicted by a second fluorine test three years later.

The human skull and ape-like jaw of Piltdown were the opposite form of development to that indicated by the Pekin man finds and others, which were being excavated prior to the Second World War. These possessed an ape-like brain but were said to have human characteristics in the jaw and teeth. These two lines of man's evolution appeared to contradict each other, and eventually the possibility of fraud was considered. Further fluorine and other tests on the Piltdown jaw and skull pieces in 1953 showed this time that they were of completely different ages, the skull being upper Pleistocene, as originally believed, but the jaw was found to be quite modern although it had been stained to appear old and the teeth had been filed.45 Investigation of the other fossils also found, showed that many of them were faked and imported from other sites.46 The elephant bone 'bat' was apparently shaped with a steel tool, probably a knife, in modern times.

Publication of the discovery of the fraud caused considerable embarrassment in scientific circles, for the experts of the day, who had made such sweeping statements based on these bones, had been completely fooled by the hoaxer. Such was the concern that a motion was tabled in the House of Commons, 'That the House has no confidence in the Trustees of the British Museum . . . because of the tardiness of their discovery that the skull of Piltdown man is a partial fake.' [9] The British Museum mounted a special exhibition of the methods by which the fraud was exposed, which was presented as a 'triumph of science', but the odium that the fraud had lain undetected in their possession for forty years remained.

Investigations began to discover the culprit. Attention focussed on Dawson, the enthusiastic amateur, and in 1955 Dr. Weiner, published The Piltdown Forgery. In this he felt that the weight of evidence suggested that Dawson perpetrated the fraud. He did allow however the slight possibility that he may have been the innocent victim of a hoaxer with the character of Mephistopheles. Some people living locally, however, were convinced that Dawson was not guilty, among them Miss Mabel Kenward, who lived at Barkham Manor where tile finds had been made, and her friend, Mr. Francis Vere, a historian, who examined the evidence. Vere subsequently published The Piltdown Fantasy and Lessons of Piltdown, which are a thoroughly researched and convincing proof that Dawson was not the culprit. The reader is referred to these publications for the detailed refutation of the evidence which implicates Dawson.

Sir Arthur Keith, a professor at the Royal College of Surgeons, and a President of the Royal Anthropological Institute, who worked extensively on the Piltdown fossils, was also impressed by Dawson's personality. In his book, The Antiquity of Man, he said in a footnote,

Mr. Dawson died on 10th August 1916, aged fifty two, deeply regretted by all who knew him, not only on account of his great discoveries but also because of his sterling ability and unselfish personality. p486
If Dawson was not the hoaxer, the question arises, 'Who was?'

A suspect

One of those who assisted in the excavations is invariably exonerated, in view of his absence from the country when several faked items were discovered. In the course of reading about this intriguing mystery, I noticed three comments made by different writers, which dramatically altered the sequence of events as they are usually given, even in official publications. This new evidence made it possible for all the faked material to have been placed by the person I now suspected.

I refer to Teilhard de Chardin.




In order to simplify the unravelling of complex situations and evidence, I set out briefly, under the subject headings I will use, my approach to the problem and my reasons for suspecting that Teilhard de Chardin was the hoaxer.

[10] 1. Chronology of events

It is essential to establish the correct sequence of events concerning dates of discovery, arrivals and departures, as they are important aspects of this whole problem. It will be shown that the published accounts are incorrect on several important features as follows:



Woodward and Teilhard are usually exonerated because the first cranium piece, which Dawson found and which is considered to be a fake, was discovered in 1908, one year before Teilhard met Dawson and four years before Woodward visited the site. Evidence will be produced to show that this cranium was not a fake but a genuine fossil, and therefore Teilhard could have planted the other fakes before the systematic excavation began in 1912.



Teilhard is further exonerated, as he left England in October 1913 whilst the fraudulent elephant bone 'bat' was found in 1914 and the discoveries made at Piltdown II site not until 1915. We will show that according to Teilhard, the Piltdown II finds were in fact made in 1913 before he had left England. He could, therefore, also have planted those fossils. Furthermore, we will see that Teilhard was in England, after the elephant 'bat' had been discovered in 1914.

Having shown that Teilhard could have been the perpetrator of the hoax, we will briefly consider Woodward's position and then examine the following evidence, showing how it exonerates Dawson and implicates Teilhard.


2. Evidence

3. Additional evidence

Fig.8 is a table of the accepted sequence of events at Piltdown, and the events as I consider they actually occurred.

Having set out the major headings, we will now examine the evidence in detail.

1908  Dawson finds skull pieces  Skull pieces handed to Dawson
1909  Dawson meets Teilhard  Dawson meets Teilhard
1911  Dawson finds further skull pieces  Dawson finds further skull pieces
   fossils and artefacts  
1912  Dawson finds Hippo tooth  (Dawson finds Hippo tooth?)
   Excavation begins (Dawson, Woodward  Excavation begins
   and Teilhard)  
   More skull pieces, jaw, fossils and; artefacts found  Skull pieces, jaw, fossils, and artefacts found
   Geological Society meeting  Geological Society meeting
1913  (Piltdown II fossils found?)  Teilhard shown Piltdown II site
   Canine tooth found  Canine tooth found
   Teilhard's final departure from England  Teilhard leaves England
   Geological Society meeting  Geological Society meeting
1914  Elephant 'Bat' found  Elephant 'Bat' found
     Teilhard returns to England
     'Bat' discussed. Teilhard
     present (Appendix I)
   Geological Society meeting  Geological Society meeting
1915  Piltdown II fossils found ?  Piltdown II fossils found
1916  Dawson died  Dawson died
1917  Woodward publishes Piltdown II finds  Woodward publishes Piltdown II finds

(Fake items are underlined)
Fig. 8. The sequence of events at Piltdown


1. Chronology of events


In various publications, evidence is produced to show that, like the jaw, the cranium fragments were faked and planted in the excavation, probably by Dawson. It is my contention, and that of Vere and Miss Kenward that they are genuine fossil skull pieces which were found embedded in the gravel by the workmen, and I set out the following evidence in support:

(i) When the 'evidence' of the faking of the skull pieces was published, Miss Kenward wrote to the papers. On the 23rd February 1955 the Telegraph published her letter in which she said:

[12] One day when they were digging in unmoved gravel, one of the workmen saw what he called a coconut. He broke it with his pick, kept one piece and threw the rest away.

From this, it is clear that the skull was found in undisturbed gravel. The bones were stained with iron for their full thickness, as would be expected in the iron rich water of Piltdown.

(ii) Vere gives 32p7 an account of the circumstances of the initial discovery of the skull which he had obviously obtained from Miss Kenward.

More recently, the first discovery of the skull pieces was most graphically described to me by Miss Mabel Kenward herself. She remembers seeing from her window her father, Mr. Robert Kenward, standing by the pit looking at the workmen, while they were digging in the gravel. One of them said there was something just like a coconut in the pit, and her father said that they should take care how they got it out, but before he could stop them, a blow from the pick shattered the skull and pieces flew in all directions. He picked up as many pieces as he could find and came into the house, whereupon Miss Kenward exclaimed, 'What on earth have you loaded up your pockets with all those old stones for?' He laid them out on the table and looked at them, but later returned them to the workmen, telling them to give them to Mr. Dawson next time he came. She could not say, of course, whether all the pieces were given to Dawson by the workmen. Presumably, as recounted by Miss Kenward and Woodward, the workman kept one piece which he later handed to Dawson, and threw the rest away.

Although there are noticeable differences in the various accounts, it is quite clear that the skull was embedded in undisturbed gravel and had to be broken out with a pick.

(iii) Major Marriot, who was living at the time of the excavations, considered that Dawson was 'salting the mine', and told his daughter that tile jaw and tooth were faked. 36p164 He thus appeared to accept that the skull pieces at least were not fraudulently stained. As he almost certainly knew of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of them by the workmen, he probably accepted them as genuine, but considered Dawson guilty of adding the faked jaw and tooth.

(iv) Knowing that the workmen had found one piece and thrown the rest away, Dawson would have been very foolish at that stage to have tried to switch skulls, as it is suggested he might have done. It would have required the funding of only one piece of the original skull to have cast doubts on any of the finds which he planted.

[13] (v) The official report of the discovery 40 says that one of the skull fragments found had been hit with a pick, thus substantiating the finding of the 'coconut' by the workmen.


The test s for gypsum

Chemical tests, carried out within the British Museum (Natural History) Department of Minerals, revealed the presence of gypsum (CaSo4) in a piece of the Piltdown cranium, which was considered to be unusual. 46p268 Tests of the ground water indicated that it could not have been deposited by natural means, and further somewhat sophisticated experiments were carried out on sub fossilized bones (i.e. partially fossilized) from other sites unconnected with Piltdown. These tests showed that if these sub-fossil bones were soaked in certain iron sulphate compounds (which the forger would use to darken the colour of his planted bones), then under certain conditions, gypsum would be deposited in the bone matrix. From this it was inferred that the presence of gypsum in any of the Piltdown fossils was evidence of forgery. Gypsum was found in many of the fossils, and as they included the early pieces of skull discovered by Dawson, this was taken as further evidence of his guilt. These tests are important, as they are the only technical evidence to show that the skull pieces were planted in the same way as the other fossils.

The report, however, is unsatisfactory on three major counts, and several minor ones. The technicalities of the report obscure the arguments, but my basic objections are very simple.

Firstly, and most convincingly, the skull pieces are considered to have been artificially stained in view of the presence of gypsum, yet the unfossilized jaw, which had obviously been doctored with iron and chromium compounds that produced a surface stain, contained no gypsum whatsoever. How Dawson could be accused of forgery by the presence of gypsum in the skull pieces, when none was found in the admittedly fake jawbone defies common sense.

Secondly, all the skull pieces were stained with iron for their full thickness, and had clearly been lying in the iron rich water of Piltdown for a considerable period. (The fake jaw was only superficially stained.) There was therefore no need whatsoever for the hoaxer to stain these pieces, the whole purpose of his staining technique being to colour match his imported items with the dark skull pieces which he knew were naturally embedded in the gravel.

Thirdly, to obtain the deposition of gypsum, partially fossilized bone had to be used. But every skull piece found was fully fossilized, there being no organic matter present, both when tested in 19I2 by Woodhead and by electron microscopy in 1953. These tests on sub-fossilized bones may, therefore, have little bearing upon the fully fossilized skull pieces.

[14] It was said that partially fossilized bone was used by the forger as the loss of some of the organic content made the bone pervious for his chemical staining technique. 49 The skull bones would be in a partially fossilized state for a long period of the time when they lay in the gravel, prior to their discovery in 1908. By this time they would be fully fossilized and much less pervious than fresh bone, which incidentally is pervious to chemicals in solution. 64p42

(The amount of Nitrogen left in the bones indicates the degree of fossilization, and there appears to be a discrepancy regarding the quantity of Nitrogen originally in the skull bones when discovered. There is 4 per cent Nitrogen in fresh bone, whilst the skull bones showed 0.2 to 1 4 per cent. It was suggested that this Nitrogen content may have been due to absorption of a gelatin preservative. This possibility was rejected, as it was pointed out that the porous skull bones should have absorbed more Nitrogen than the compact dentine material of the teeth, but the reverse was the case. 45p144 But surely if the jaw and teeth were fairly fresh, they would have considerable organic Nitrogen in any case, the fossilized skull bones obtaining their smaller amount of Nitrogen from the gelatin preservative. No tests to check on this possibility are mentioned in the report, but electron microscopy tests were carried out to investigate this aspect, and the collagen, which contains the organic Nitrogen, was found to be entirely absent in the skull pieces. 36p39

It would, therefore, appear that their measured Nitrogen content was due to the preservative treatment carried out by the British Museum authorities themselves!)

Other points, upon which the report could be criticized, are as follows:

(i) Dawson was said to have found five pieces of skull before taking them to Woodward. All of these five pieces contained chromium (from Dawson's efforts to 'harder' them), but none was found in the later pieces discovered by Woodward and others. As we shall see, the presence of chromium in a fossil was taken as in indication that it was fraudulent, as the forger appears to have used a chromium compound as an oxidizer in his staining techniques.

Five pieces were tested for gypsum, and all the tests were positive. Two of them, however, were pieces found by Woodward (right parietal and a small fragment of the occipital. 46p269 39p10 These pieces, therefore, do not have the 'tell-tale' chromium, but do have gypsum. This is further evidence that the presence of gypsum in the pieces was due to their lying in the ground, and not due to the staining technique.

(ii) Due to the low sulphur content of the soil, it was considered that the gypsum could not have been introduced by natural means. But a test made recently does not rule out the possibility that the water may have been much richer in sulphates during the long period when the skull lay in the gravel.

In addition, sulphates werepresent in the Piltdown water (obtained from a well a quarter of a mile away). Their concentration of 63 parts per million of SO3 was not negligible. By way of example, at concentrations only five times more than this, special considerations have to be given to the protection of concrete foundations in the ground. Similarly, a small amount of sulphates (3.9 mg. per 100 g.) was found in the Piltdown gravel.

Conversion of the calcium phosphate of the bone into calcium sulphate by the sulphates in the ground water over a long period of time is surely the most obvious explanation for the presence of gypsum in the skull bones.

We have considered this question of the presence of gypsum in some detail, in view of the importance attached to it by the reports exposing the fraud. The presence of chromium was also considered as evidence of fraud, however, and gypsum was found in some beavers' teeth but no chromium. The report comments: 'These were presumably stained by another technique, which dispensed with the use of a dichromatic solution as oxidizer'. 46p252 Thus it is necessary to assume that, in order to explain the presence of gypsum, the forger used more than one technique. Indeed, from this line of reasoning, we must infer that he used three methods, for the jaw contained chromium but no gypsum!

From all this, we would suggest that these tests are not conclusive, and that the presence of gypsum or chromium in the early skull pieces found by Dawson does not prove that they were fraudulently stained.


Visitors to the site

After being handed the first piece of cranium, Dawson took his friend Mr. Woodhead to the site only a few days later to explore it, but they found nothing. Dawson is hardly likely to have taken a colleague to the site so soon after the first discovery, if he had intended later to plant fake bones.

After this initial find, Dawson spoke to a number of friends about his discovery, and some of them helped him in his excavations. Any one of these could have been the hoaxer, and had ample opportunity, for excavations in the early days were only carried out during weekends and holidays. The fact that the trench could be seen from the windows of Barkham Manor meant that only those who were within the circle of Dawson's acquaintances were allowed to work there. One interloper was seen by Miss Kenward and warned off, as she told the writer personally.

[16] Among the many visitors was Sir Grafton Elliot Smith, who carried out extensive investigations of the Piltdown skull. He was accompanied by Dr. Davidson Black who was studying under him, and who later became famous for his Pekin man discoveries. Whilst at the site Black was fortunate enough to find part of a rhinoceros molar tooth. 42

It is worth mentioning in passing that the fossil skull found at Piltdown is a perfectly human type, but of unusual thickness. However, skulls of this thickness are possessed by a very small percentage of people who are living today. A similar thickness is noted in the Swanscombe skull and possibly it is this factor which assists in their preservation.

Considering the above evidence, it can be seen that the discovery of the genuine cranium fossil in 1908 does not exonerate Woodward or Teilhard from possibly planting fake bones after their arrival on the scene.


Teilhard's involvement

Teilhard, twenty-seven years old, came to Hastings in 1908 to attend the Jesuit College, where he was ordained in August 1911. He began searching one of the local quarries for fossils, accompanied by a Jesuit friend. This came to the notice of Dawson, who met him in 1909, which was the beginning of their friendship. Although there is no specific mention of his visiting the site before June 1912, when systematic excavation started, he would doubtless have been invited to go there by Dawson. He worked very closely with Dawson in the Hastings quarries, and in a paper by Woodward in March 1911, dealing with the finds there, paid tribute to the assistance of Teilhard and his friend, Father Pelletier, and he paid a further tribute to them in another paper in November 1913.

When they first met at the quarry, Dawson revealed with great enthusiasm the exciting news of his finds at Piltdown. He may well have told him the precise locality or even taken Teilhard to the site before June 1912. There are only four occasions recorded in the official reports when Teilhard accompanied Dawson and Woodward to the site.

Dawson, in his 1912 address said: 'Father P. Teilhard S.J., who accompanied us on one occasion discovered one of the implements in situ .... also a portion of the tooth of a Pliocene elephant . . .' 40 In his 1913 report on the discovery of the canine tooth, he said: 'It was in the middle of this spread that Father Teilhard de Chardin who worked with us three days last summer, on 30th August 19I3, discovered the canine tooth of Eoanthropus'. 41 These four visits with Dawson do not exclude the possibility that Teilhard may have worked at the site alone. Indeed, if we are to accept the evidence of Mr. Essex given later, there was at least one occasion when he did.

[17] Arthur Keith records that Teilhard 'shared in all the toils at Piltdown' 16p664 and Leakey says that many others were aware of this also.

Speaight relates a small incident which indicates how closely Teilhard's name had become linked with the Piltdown discoveries. In 1915 while Teilhard was serving in the war as a medical orderly, he met Max Begouen, who was to become his lifelong friend. When Teilhard introduced himself, Begouen's immediate response was: 'Ah, you're the Piltdown man.' p59

I myself asked Miss Kenward, now over eighty years old, how often Teilhard had come to the site. She said that he had been to tea twice, but she could not remember how often he had worked at the excavations.

Recalling those early days when the hoax was later exposed, Teilhard wrote in a letter of 1st March 1954 that he was not often allowed to leave his cell at Ore Place, and knew nothing about anthropology. 12p11 This is not substantiated by Cuénot however, who said he was allowed to go more frequently on scientific excursions, and as we know he was often at the Hastings quarries as well as Piltdown. He doubtless had some knowledge of anthropology, for he had collected rock specimens and fossils from his childhood. Furthermore in 1912 he accepted an invitation to work with Professor Boule, the professor of Palaeontology at the Paris Museum and an expert in fossil man.


Other early finds

It would only require one or two visits to the site for the hoaxer to realize its potential, and Dawson's enthusiasm, with his honest but naive approach, made him an easy victim. Fake teeth of hippopotamus and elephant were said to be found by Dawson before the June excavations (but we examine this evidence in Appendix II). Leaving these fossils in the pit is the work of a moment, and they would give an early date to the stratum, which would certainly arouse the interest of the British Museum authorities. When Woodward appears on the scene, the fake flint tool, Planifrons tooth and ape's jaw are quickly 'discovered', the first two by Teilhard himself. Teilhard, meeting Dawson in 1909, would thus have had ample opportunity to prepare for the hoax.

It is interesting that when Smith Woodward began the excavations in 1912, he particularly required some secrecy in carrying them out, possibly because he wanted to make sure the finds were authentic, or alternatively, and more likely in view of his subsequent conduct, because he was jealous of sharing with any other professional colleague the prestige of being the discoverer of an important humanoid fossil. Present at that first dig were Woodward, Dawson, a workman and Teilhard, who, Dawson had assured Woodward, was 'quite safe.'



As we have already mentioned, Teilhard is further exonerated because it is said he left England in October 1913, whilst (i) the shaped elephant's bone was found in 1914, and (ii) the finds at Piltdown II were not made until 1915.



The announcement of the discovery of the shaped elephant's bone was a joint paper by Woodward and Dawson, read at a meeting of the Geological Society' on 2nd December 1914 42, which says that it was discovered 'during the season's dig'-no precise date being given. This elephant 'bat' was a large piece of bone from an elephant's femur, which had been found when a hedge had been removed to allow the digging to extend further. It had been shaped (with a knife in modem times) and covered with yellow clay to make it fool: as if it had been found at the bottom of the pit and thrown on to the field by the workmen. Its discovery some months after Teilhard's departure from England obviously in no way exonerates him, for there was nothing to prevent him from burying the bone, to await its discovery by others long after he had left.

The date for Teilhard's final departure in October 1913 however is wrong, for he returned in 1914. On p.54 of his biography, Speaight says that on the 24th September 1914 Teilhard began his tertianship at Canterbury . This return of Teilhard in 1914, after the 'bat' had been found confirms the evidence of a Mr. Robert Essex.


Mr. Essex's suspicion

We will now consider the evidence provided by a Mr. Robert Essex, who was science master at Uckfield Grammar School at the time when the discoveries were made, and knew all those involved in the excavations. When the fraud was discovered, he remembered several incidents which occurred at the time of the excavations and considered that he knew the identity of the hoaxer. He communicated his evidence and the name of his suspect to the British Museum authorities and to Vere. No mention of this evidence whatsoever appears in Weiner's book, but R. Essex is mentioned in the acknowledgements as one of many 'who gave information and answered specific queries'. Vere gives this evidence in both his books, but using X in place of the name of the man Essex suspected. Essex also wrote an article in the Kent and Sussex Journal in July 1953, which is of such interest that I give it in Appendix I.

Essex's evidence is particularly valuable, as, apart from Teilhard and Miss Kenward, he was the only person with an interest in the [19] original excavation who was still alive when the fraud was finally uncovered. I made every effort to trace the correspondence files of both Essex and Vere, to ascertain the identity of 'X', but to no avail. Vere, who knew the identity of 'X', was clearly very suspicious of Teilhard in his second book. 33

My attention, however, was later drawn to a letter in the New Scientist of the 14th January 1917, 48 written by a Mr. J. Head. He recounts that ten years ago he had met Essex, who had told him that he considered that Teilhard may have been the hoaxer. Thus the identity of Essex's and Vere's Mr. 'X' is given in this letter as Teilhard.

1 would now refer my readers to the article by Essex, which I give is in the Appendix I. In this, on a date unfortunately not given by either Essex or Vere, the 'bat' was being discussed whilst the person Essex suspected was close by. As we have seen from Mr. Head's letter, Essex suspected Teilhard, and we can therefore deduce that Teilhard was at Uckfield after the 'bat' had been found, presumably during his return to Canterbury in 1914.

In this article by Essex, he mentions that he saw half of a fossil human jaw in a bag owned by 'X', which was quite unlike the fake jaw discovered later. Clearly, one (or both?) halves of the genuine jaw for the skull piece had been found, and 'X' could not substitute the fake half jaw without fear of the real jaw being later discovered and thus ruining the hoax.



Both Vere and Weiner date these discoveries in the year 1915, obviously basing their datings on Woodward's account in his 1917 paper, which we have quoted on p.7.

Teilhard however claimed that Dawson showed him the field in 1913 after he had made the discoveries. He could therefore have planted those fossils.

This information is contained in a lecture given by Professor Oakley to the Geological Society in 1972, which was later printed in Antiquity in March 1976. In this he says:

The only manuscript record of this second site is a postcard from Daw-son to Woodward dated 30 July 1915. In a letter to me written on 28 November 1953, Father Teilhard had this to say about Dawson's second site, 'He just brought me to the site of locality 2 and explained to me that he had found the isolated molar and small pieces of skull in the heaps of rubble and pebbles raked at the surface of the field.' That must have been in 1914, because Father Teilhard returned to France before the end of that year and did not return to Britain until after the 1914-18 war. Why should Dawson have concealed such an important find from Smith Woodward for nearly two years? 49p10

[20] Speaight's biography of Teilhard gives a similar account as follows 'In answer to a letter from Kenneth Oakley announcing the exposure he replied...." Speaight then quotes a lengthy extract from Teilhard's letter which a footnote dates as 28th November 1953. He then continues:

In a further letter Teilhard confirmed that, on his second visit to the second Piltdown locality in late July 1913, the pieces of skull and a tooth had already been found. He remembered Dawson pointing out the little heaps of raked pebbles as the place of the discovery. p318

Before we proceed to examine this statement of Teilhard in detail, I must emphasize that whether the fossils were found in 1913 or 1915, there was nothing to prevent Teilhard from placing them in the field which he knew in 1913 was being searched, for discovery by Dawson long after Teilhard had left for France. This is the same point I have made regarding the elephant 'bat', and he cannot be exonerated on this account.

I will first of all consider the problems which arise if Teilhard's statement is correct, and then look at the possibility that he fabricated this story of the 1913 date for the Piltdown II discoveries.


Teilhard's letters

There are several problems regarding Teilhard's correspondence when the hoax was discovered.

(i) Speaight, having quoted an extract from a letter Teilhard wrote to Oakley, then says that, 'In a further letter Teilhard confirmed . . .' the date as late July 1913 for his second visit to Piltdown II. p318 The immediate impression is that this second letter was also to Oakley, but from the latter's article in Antiquity, this is not so, as he presumed it was in 1914. To whom was this second (and more informative) letter addressed?

(ii) Oakley's presumption of 1914 as the date for Teilhard's Piltdown II visit is corrected by the 'further letter' as being late July 1913. This agrees well with Speaight's account, for he gives details of Teilhard's visit to England in late July, his discovery of the canine tooth in August, and departure several weeks later.

(iii) Weiner mentions p111 that Teilhard was conducted to the place by Dawson in 1913 (August on p.142). His footnote refers to a 'personal communication', presumably to Weiner himself. This may be the letter referred to by Vere 32p31 dated 2nd March 1954, in which Teilhard said, 'Dawson showed me the field where the second skull (fragments) were found. But, as I wrote to Oakley, I cannot remember whether it was before or after the find.'

[21] If this assumption is correct, such seeming vagueness on Teilhard's part conflicts with his very clear statement to Oakley, in the letter he wrote only four months previously, that when he was taken to the site by Dawson, the fossils had already been found.

Teilhard's accounts have every appearance of giving two different stories. Furthermore, even the admission that he could not 'remember whether Dawson showed him the site after or before the find,' is strange. He must have known that he left England in 1914 and that the finds were supposed to have been made in 1915, and there should therefore have been no possibility of their being discovered before he left. Indeed it was this statement which prompted me to examine the evidence more closely. Cuenot in fact confirms that Teilhard saw these fossils after the war, for he says: 'In August of 1920 we kind him in England, excited at being shown the new fragment of cranium and the new fossil tooth "found" at Piltdown in 1915' p31 [Thus Teilhard is 'excited' on seeing these fossils in 1920, although he knew they had been discovered in 1913, at which time he may well have been shown them by Dawson or Woodward. When he saw them in 1920, should he not have told the experts that they were actually found in 1913 in order to correct the scientific record- or would this have caused too many questions to be asked?

It may be objected that possibly Teilhard's memory was faulty, and he simply got the wrong date forty years after the events took place, but it must be emphasized that he gives a very accurate description of his visit, specifically remembering Dawson pointing out the heaps where the finds had been made. Furthermore, his statement that it was late July 1913 agrees precisely with Speaight's account of his arrival in England. Although he wrote these letters when he was seventy-three years old, and was suffering from a weak heart, he did not appear to have any diminution of his mental powers.

Weiner states that in October 1913 (two years before the Piltdown II discoveries) Teilhard left England for many years. p92 One can only presume that he was unaware of Teilhard's admission to Oakley that the Piltdown II fossils had been discovered before that date, and that Teilhard actually returned to England in September 1914.


A fabricated account?

So far we have assumed that Teilhard's statement was correct, and have seen the difficulties which this raises. Teilhard may, however, have fabricated the story that Dawson showed him the field where he had found the fossils as early as 1913. Teilhard's account of seeing the 'heaps of rubble and pebbles raked at the surface of the field' could have simply been obtained from Woodward's 1917 report, in which [22] he mentions that 'the stones had been raked off the ground and brought together in heaps'.

Professor Oakley asked the pertinent question: 'Why should Dawson have concealed such an important find from Smith Woodward for nearly two years?' Indeed, why should he? Dawson wrote two cards to Woodward, one dated January 1915, announcing the discovery of two cranium pieces, the second dated 15th July 1915, is on public display at the British Museum (N.H.), mentions the molar he had found. If Dawson did find them in 1913, why should he wait for two years for no apparent reason before telling Woodward?

Furthermore, in Woodward's 1917 paper, he said that he searched the field with Dawson several times in 1914 without success. Are we to believe that Dawson was prepared to spend his own and his friend's valuable time searching this field for fossils, knowing all the time that he had found three fossils the previous year, but which he would not reveal to Woodward until next year? I would suggest that this is extremely unlikely. I believe that Dawson did find the pieces at Piltdown II in 1915 and duly reported them to Woodward. By now, however, they were both highly suspicious of the whole affair, and decided to keep quiet for the time being, Woodward only publicizing the fossils after Dawson's death.

An indication that Woodward was suspicious of the authenticity of the Piltdown II fossils is provided by his book, The Earliest Englishman, which was published in 1948, four years after his death. In this, he gives no details whatsoever of the discovery of the fossils at Piltdown II. His only reference to them in the whole of his book is a passing comment when he says:

We are confirmed in this belief by Mr. Dawson's discovery of a similar grinding tooth, together with two fragments of a second Piltdown skull, in a patch of gravel about two miles away from the original spot. p65

Vere, 33p15 whilst admitting that he has no evidence, conjectures that someone may have done a little editing between Woodward's death and the publication of his book:. As we will see, this could also apply to Woodward's statement about Dawson's early finds. If his book was altered, it would involve one or more persons other than the three upon whom the main suspicion falls.

Teilhard's accounts of Dawson showing him the field in 1913 after the fossils had been discovered have several contradictions, and I contend that the possibility that it was a complete fabrication, in an effort to discredit Dawson, must be considered. If this view is correct, it would give further weight to my contention that he was the instigator of the hoax.

One further strange fact is that Dawson was not the only person to [23] discover fossils at Piltdown II. In his 1917 report, Woodward says:

Shortly afterwards, in the same gravel, a friend met with part of the lower molar of an indeterminate species of rhinoceros, as highly mineralised as the specimens previously found at Piltdown itself.

One would expect that any person making an important discovery could be acknowledged in the report, yet Woodward fails to give the name of this 'friend'. Did this mysterious 'friend' discover a rhinoceros tooth fragment, which was deliberately planted to establish a link with Piltdown I, where Davidson Black had similarly found a part of a rhinoceros tooth which was just as highly mineralized?

Woodward's loss of interest in this site after the discoveries is strange. Why did he never give the precise location of this field, and why did he never revisit the site after his vain search with Dawson in 1914? These are questions which have never been satisfactorily answered, but his strange handling of the evidence suggests that he suspected that the fossils found at this site may have been 'planted' for Dawson and others to kind in due course.

Summarizing the main arguments given above, I trust that it has been adequately established that neither the date of Teilhard's arrival nor of his departure prevent him from having planted the fake jaw, teeth and flints at Piltdown I or the fossils at Piltdown II.



It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Woodward was the culprit, or was in league with the real hoaxer. His inexplicable delay in publishing the Piltdown II finds in 1917, which were found in 1915 is rather strange. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that he was the real instigator of the hoax, for the following reasons:

(a) He was known to be particularly clumsy with his hands, which makes it very unlikely that he would have the technical skill required to file the teeth, break the jaw at certain precise points and carefully pack the pulp cavity of the canine tooth with grains of sand.

(b) After he retired, he lived at Haywards Heath and even as late as 1935 carried out additional excavations at his own expense, in the hope of further finds. This is hardly the action of a man who knew that most of the discoveries at the site had been forged by himself.

These are not particularly strong reasons for exonerating Woodward, but on the other hand, in all my research I have found no evidence to suggest that he was either the initiator of the fraud, or even a willing accomplice. The most likely explanation of his actions is that [24] he suspected that some of the fossils had been planted and became evasive in his statements, so that firm proof of this fact would be more difficult to establish.

One of the most serious charges against Woodward is his almost obsessive guarding of the original fossils. Even very eminent scientists, among them Sir Arthur Keith, were only granted comparatively infrequent and brief periods of inspections. As they could only work upon plaster casts, there was no possibility of the jaw being detected as a fake. This secrecy could be interpreted as an awareness of the existence of the hoax, although it may simply be an extension of his early desire to keep the excavations secret, or professional jealousy.

In his book, Woodward gives accounts of Dawson's first meeting with Teilhard at the Hastings quarries, and the latter's discovery of the canine, but makes virtually no other reference to Teilhard's part in the excavations Speaight mentions that, only a few weeks after the June excavations, Woodward visited Teilhard at his Hastings College to rifle his fossil collection for the British Museum, but I can trace no suggestion of collusion between them.


2. Evidence

I will now examine certain items of evidence and see how they affect Dawson and Teilhard.


When Dawson, Woodward and Teilhard began excavating on 2nd June 19T2, Teilhard unearthed in the pit a flint tool and a stegodon tooth (Elephas planifrons)' both of which were fakes. When the hoax was discovered the tooth was found to have a particularly high level of radioactivity. This is unusual for fossils found in Western Europe, but it was found that fossils from Ichkeul, near Bizerta, North Tunisia, had a very similar level of radioactivity, and Elephas planifrons is abundant there. It is almost certain that the Piltdown fossil tooth came from this location. An important factor is that this site was not publicly identified until after 1918.

The likelihood of Dawson obtaining such a fossil from so remote a site is extremely improbable, particularly when its existence was not made public until after the First World War. There is no mention that he ever travelled much outside England.

Teilhard had been a lecturer at Cairo University from 1906-8. Being with the scientific elite and having an interest in palaeontology, he is almost certain to have heard of any interesting sites in North Africa, and would have had ample opportunity to visit Ichkeul. Indeed Ronald Millar states 24p232 that he had actually stayed near this site! [25] I must say that I consider this fossil one of the most important pieces of evidence which casts suspicion on Teilhard.

Planifron fossils are plentiful at Ichkeul, and if Teilhard picked up a tooth during his visit there, which he later used at Piltdown, he would little realize that its radioactivity would pinpoint its source and thus provide very incriminating evidence.



In Essex's article (see Appendix I), Montgomery told Dawson that he had seen a fossil just like the elephant 'bat' in the Dordogne area. Teilhard was born not more than 100 miles from the area, and even as a small child was an avid collector of stones and similar artefacts.

In the Geological Society Report of 1915, 42 a description of the bone specifically mentions that 'the decay has widened the cracks into small superficial grooves resembling those in a sub-fossil femur of Elephas from a lake deposit in Egypt, now in the British Museum'.

It is possible (but unlikely) that Dawson may have possessed such a fossil, and one could not therefore exonerate him on this evidence alone for he may have obtained such a bone in pursuing his palaeonto-logical interests.

Teilhard, however, had ample opportunity to collect such an item, for whether it came from the Dordogne or Egypt, his close association with both of these sites is of interest when considering the evidence against him.



The hoaxer must have been an expert anthropologist to have fooled the professional scientists, who would be inspecting the fossils very closely. Breaking of the upper condyle of the jaw prevented them discovering how the jaw articulated with the skull and thus how far the jaw was

developed towards the human type. Had the jaw not been broken at this point, the shape of the upper condyle would have made it obvious that it was only an ape's jaw.

Similarly, the omission of the canine tooth prevented the experts from determining if the jaw was human or ape-like.

The filing and staining of the canine tooth, the discovery of which not has already been described, was also the work of an expert. The tooth had been filed with care, packed with grains of sand and given an appearance of fossilization.

A considerable list of items could be catalogued to indicate the very high level of skill and expertise possessed by the forger. Suffice it to say that when the fraud was exposed, his skill was acknowledged by Weiner, Oakley and Le Gros Clark, who, in their presentation of their findings in 1953 said:

[26] . . . from the evidence which we have obtained, it is now clear that the distinguished paleontologists and archaeologists, who took part in the excavations at Piltdown, were the victims of a most elaborate and carefully prepared hoax . . . the faking of mandible and canine is so extraordinarily skilful and the perpetration of the hoax appears to have been so entirely unscrupulous and inexplicable as to find no parallel in the history of palaeontological discovery. 45

Dawson was a complete amateur in these matters. Indeed, he had to ask his own dentist to show him how to fit a tooth into a jaw. His original interests were in local history and ancient tools and artefacts. He did not have the technical skill or expertise displayed by the fabricator.

Teilhard, on the other hand, was a keen student of palaeontology, even before he came to England, and went on to obtain international recognition as an expert, writing numerous papers and assisting at the excavation of the Pekin man, as we shall recount later. He would have had more than sufficient knowledge to know which animal fossils should be implanted in the gravel, to give it the correct age for dating the finds.

In addition, he would be aware that the atmosphere in scientific circles was ripe for the funding of an ape man link. The Java man finds had been publicized in 1895 with considerable arguments regarding their interpretation, and further links between man and animals were expected to be found at any time, in order to confirm the theory of evolution and man's descent from apes.



When Dawson found the first (five?) fragments of the cranium, before he called in Smith Woodward, he dipped them in bichromate of potash, mistakenly thinking that this would harden them. This chemical does not harden bones, and it is an indication of Dawson's ignorance of chemistry to have thought that it would do so.

Dawson sent these pieces to the local public analyst for a report. Had he deliberately stained them with intent to defraud, he is hardly likely to have wanted them to be analysed. In addition, the staining had been done in conjunction with a friend and many knew of it, including the experts. That Dawson 'stained' the early finds of the cranium is invariably considered to incriminate him in the staining of the jaw with iron compounds, but this is a much more complex procedure and quite a separate matter.

The remaining (four?) pieces of the cranium found after Smith Woodward had been called in were not stained in bichromate of potash. Here again, had Dawson intended to fool the experts with a planted cranium, he would surely have stained all the fragments before placing them in the pit for the excavators to find.


[27] Dawson's staining

The allegation that Dawson was experimenting with the staining of bones was made by a Captain St. Barbe. In 1913 he entered Dawson's rear office unannounced and found him 'surrounded by porcelain pots containing brownish liquids, in which bones were soaking'. Dawson said he was experimenting with bone staining to discover how it went on in nature. A few weeks later, he referred to the staining again, saying that he was experimenting with flints as well as bones. Again this would seriously incriminate Dawson as the fraudulent stainer of the jaw, but:

(a) This incident occurred some time in 1913, long after the jaw had been discovered. He would surely have completed his experiments before the 1912 excavations, had he been the hoaxer.

(b) Had he intended to defraud the experts, his office is hardly the most secretive place in which to carry out his staining experiments.

(c) He is unlikely to have volunteered the fact that he was also carrying out experiments on flints, some weeks after St. Barbe entered his office.

In fact, even whilst the excavations were being carried out in 1912 and 1913 , it was suspected by some of Dawson's local acquaintances that the finds were fraudulent. Indeed, his reaction to the word 'Dordogne' during the discussion recorded by Essex indicates that he was aware that he had been the innocent dupe of a hoax and that he had suspicions who the guilty person was. His experiments with staining of bones were probably to see if staining had been used as a basis for the fraud. In addition, Vere suggests he may have been induced to 'harden' his skull pieces in bichromate by the hoaxer, to cover up the latter's use of a chromium compound for staining, and to further incriminate Dawson. Alternatively, knowing Dawson had 'hardened' the skull pieces in bichromate of potash, could not the forger have deliberately used a chromium compound to throw suspicion upon the skull pieces which he knew were genuine?

Mr. H. Morris, one of Dawson's rivals, furnishes further evidence that the fraudulent nature of the finds was common knowledge. When Dr. Weiner was investigating the fraud, he traced a cabinet full of eoliths or flint stones, which Morris had collected. In one of the drawers several notes were found, in which Morris accuses Dawson of staining flints, etc. He appears to have been jealous of Dawson's fame, but somewhat eccentric in writing these accusing notes and then shutting them in his drawer. One of the interesting notes he made, however, will be referred to later.


[28] Chemical expertise

All the skull pieces found were stained with iron salts for their full thickness. Piltdown soil is particularly rich in iron compounds. When the hoaxer fabricated the orang-utan's jaw, he had to stain it with iron to make it look like the cranium fragments. To do this requires a knowledge of chemistry of a high order. Ferric ammonium sulphate was probably used, together with chromium compounds, which are oxidizing agents, presumably to obtain iron oxide. Ferric ammonium sulphate has an unusual reaction on the calcium of bones. The chemical expertise required for such a process can be seen, whilst the presence of chromium in many of the fossils was considered to be evidence of fraud.

Teilhard's knowledge of chemistry was considerable, for he had been a lecturer in this very subject whilst at Cairo University. He would know the oxidizing effect which chromium compounds have upon ferric ammonium sulphate. Strangely enough he was also interested in the

staining of bones. When the hoax was exposed, he wrote the letter to Professor Oakley, dated 28th November 1953 (which we have mentioned before-p.20), which Speaight quotes. In it he says:

. . . water in the wealden clay can stain at a remarkable speed. In 1912, in a fresh stream near Hastings, I was unpleasantly surprised to see a fresh-sawed bone (from the butchers) stained almost as deep brown as the human remains from Piltdown. 29p318

Now, butchers do not usually discard their bones in nearby streams, and his statement gives every indication that it was he who deliberately placed a fresh-sawn bone in the stream, and observed it over a period of time, during which he noted that it was quickly stained as deeply as the Piltdown fossils. If this is correct, could he not have been carrying out a simple test to check how rapidly, and to what colour, fresh (ape's jaw?) bones would be stained in the waters of the weald, as part of his careful preparation for the hoax?


3. Further evidence

I feel that the evidence outlined above strongly indicates that Teilhard de Chardin could have been the perpetrator of the Piltdown hoax. If this is considered as a possibility, it would explain some other incidents



Teilhard was the actual discoverer of several of the fake items.

(i) On the very first day of the June 1913 excavation, he 'laid hands [20] on' the fragment of the 'Stegodon' tooth, which came from Ichkeul.

(ii) Later, he found the fake flint tool actually in the pit, all the others having been found in the spoil heaps.

(iii) Later still, near the same spot, the stained jaw 'flew out' of the excavation when struck by Dawson's pick.



In Woodward's account of Teilhard's finding of the canine (see p.6) certain phrases become particularly significant. When Teilhard found the tooth, they were 'incredulous', as they had already seen several bits of ironstone . . . on the spot where he stood. He insisted, however, that he was not deceived, so we both left our digging....' Thus it is evident that Teilhard 'found' the tooth where Dawson and Woodward had already searched with sufficient thoroughness that at first they could not believe he had found anything, and he had to insist he had, before they would investigate his discovery.

Furthermore, in his letter to Oakley of 28th November 1993 29p318 he remembers his discovery of the canine, and says, '. . . when I found the canine, it was so inconspicuous among the gravels . . . that it seemed to me quite unlikely that the tooth would have been planted. I can even remember Sir Arthur congratulating me on the sharpness of my eyesight.' Having carefully filed and painted the tooth and packed it with sand granules, the hoaxer would indeed be foolish to so place it that it could easily be overlooked. All would be explained, however, if it was Teilhard who had brought it to the site.



One of the notes, scrawled by Morris and found in the cabinet, as mentioned on p.27 was the following: 'Judging from an overheard conversation, there is every reason to suppose that the "canine tooth", found at Piltdown was imported from France,' followed by: 'Watch C. Dawson. Kind regards.' Had Morris heard that it was Dawson (whom he disliked intensely), who had imported the tooth from France, he would surely have said so. The connection of another fossil with France should be noted and surely, if the canine came from France, the jaw could have come from there also.

It is not suggested that an account of an overheard conversation, written by an eccentric collector, should be seriously considered as satisfactory evidence. However, if nothing else, it does show that many local amateur collectors were aware of the fraudulent nature of Piltdown, even at the time when the excavations were being carried out. This we will now consider.



Weiner relates how the possibility that the Piltdown specimens had been deliberated fabricated occurred to him, when he considered that the many conflicting aspects of their nature could be explained by such a 'hypothesis'. That Piltdown was a hoax is presented as a new discovery in the scientific world, yet in Chapter 12, which he entitled 'The Eye Wink', it is quite clear that the fraudulent nature of the finds was common knowledge among many of Dawson's local associates, even at the time when the finds were made.

We have already mentioned Morris and Captain St. Barbe; others were Major Marriot, Mr. Pollard and A. S. Kennard, who all mixed socially.

Weiner gives some interesting information regarding Kennard's views. He was an experienced amateur palaeontologist, whose ability was sufficiently recognized to warrant the offering of a post as an assistant in a professional capacity at the Geological Survey at South Kensington, when he retired from his business. Kennard appears to have had reservations regarding the elephant 'bat' for this is implied by his comment, recorded in the discussion on the paper 42 in December 1914, when Woodward and Dawson presented the find. He said:

. . . he wished to congratulate the authors on the discovery of a new problem from Piltdown. From the differences between the cut portion of the bone and the natural surface, he considered it possible that the bone was not in a fresh state when cut . . .

Did he imply that it had been cut in its fossilized state, i.e. in modern times?

Even more arresting is the comment made by R. Smith of the Department of Antiquities of the British Museum during the same discussion on the paper. He said 'the possibility of the bone having been found and whitled in recent times must be considered'. Such a comment is surely more than Weiner's description 'ironic', being a thinly veiled accusation that the fossil had possibly been deliberately shaped to look like an ancient tool. One would expect a sense of shock to go through the meeting, but official accounts are hardly suitable for recording the atmosphere at such a gathering. Suffice it to say that in the replies, Woodward considered that the bone was fresh when it was cut, but they had not made any experiments in cutting bone with flint.

Weiner records that Kennard 'let it be known on several occasions (in the 1940's) that he believed Piltdown Man to be a hoax' and, '. . . intimated to Mr. Hinton (in the Natural History Museum) he did not consider Dawson the forger. He died in 1948 and his knowledge of the forger's identity went with him.'

[31] We have here a respected palaeontologist, who was a member of a closely associated scientific body, making serious accusations regarding the authenticity of the Piltdown fossils. The fossils, which the Natural History Museum authorities guarded so carefully under lock and key, and which numerous highly qualified scientists had spent many hours analysing and discussing, he considered to be nothing more than frauds. Surely even a hint that any of the numerous exhibits in the Museum were frauds should result in an immediate investigation. No such action, however, appears to have been taken. Kennard is said never to have intimated who he considered the hoaxer to be.

The sudden realization that Piltdown might be a fraud was obviously not as original as the British Museum experts appeared to think. One of them was suspicious as early as 1949, however. When, during the first series of Fluorine Tests, 44 Oakley saw the low F-content of the fossils of Piltdown man compared with some of the other animal bones, his 'instinctive reaction was to regard Eoanthropus as bogus'. 49 Furthermore, the white drillings from the teeth during the test were similar to those obtainable from modern teeth, which should have aroused suspicion in any case.

What is also rather surprising is that Essex said he went to the British Museum authorities and laid before them all his information, but apart from Weiner's inclusion of his name among many others in his preface 'who gave information and answered specific queries', no other mention is made of his important evidence by any member of that body.


4. Two strange accounts

(a) Teilhard's word

In trying to unravel a mystery such as we have at Piltdown, one naturally considers the significance of all clues, no matter how small. It would be quite wrong, however, to place too much weight upon the significance of one word in any accounts of the events. With this warning in mind, I will mention in passing a comment by Teilhard.

When the June excavations began, the only people who knew of the existence of the skull pieces were Woodward, Teilhard and some of Dawson's local friends. Although the skull was later to become known worldwide, the knowledge of its existence by such a small group of: people hardly merited his description-'. . . the famous human skull . . . 29p44, in his letter of 3rd June 1912. This was written only one day after excavations had started, and the jaw had not yet been found. Did he know it would become famous?

(b) Teilhard as witness

Finally, I would refer once more to the letter quoted by Speaight, [32] which Teilhard wrote to Dr. Oakley on the 28th November 1953, one extract already having been quoted above. In this same letter Teilhard says:

No one would think of suspecting Smith-Woodward. I knew pretty well Dawson-a methodical and enthusiastic character. When we were in the field I never noticed anything suspicious in his behaviour. The only thing which puzzled me, one day, was when I saw him picking up two large fragments of skull out of a sort of rubble in a corner of the pit (these fragments had probably been rejected by the workmen the year before). 29p317

If we imagine this incident taking place, we are asked to believe that Dawson, who was always enthusiastic about his finds, found two large pieces of skull, quietly pocketed them and said nothing to the others, and that he did all this while Teilhard, who was sufficiently close to see they were skull fragments, was looking on. Furthermore, if Teilhard actually saw this taking place, then surely as an ordained priest and as a scientist concerned for the integrity of his profession, he had a duty to report this immediately to Woodward, who would then have cross-questioned Dawson. In my opinion, his account of this event does not ring true and I question whether it ever took place.

I have already examined Teilhard's account of Dawson showing him the Piltdown II site in 1913 after the discovery of the fossils there, and suggested that this also was fabricated to incriminate Dawson. Did Teilhard hope that it would be inferred that Dawson pocketed two skull pieces at Piltdown I which he would later 'find' at Piltdown II?

If Teilhard did fabricate these two accounts, and the evidence tends to support this, it would provide further confirmation that he was indeed the perpetrator of the hoax.



That Teilhard may have been the instigator of the Piltdown hoax is considered as unthinkable by most people in view of his international reputation and integrity as a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest. Some, however, have suggested that nevertheless this may be correct, and I give the comments of some of those who have suspected Teilhard.


Leak's views

Dr. L. S. B. Leakey says in his book Unveiling Man's Origin 90 that Teilhard had been in Egypt, whilst on p.144 he says:

The story of the uncovering of this hoax has been the subject of several books, but it seems likely that the last word on the subject has not yet been written. There can be no doubt at all that at least one of the persons [33] involved in making the forgeries must have had considerable knowledge of chemistry as well as some training in geology and human anatomy. The perpetrators also must have had access to fossil bones from outside Great Britain, since some of the animal fossils 'planted' with the skull and jaw, at the site, came from places like Malta and North Africa."

This description clearly fits Teilhard very closely. His insinuation prompted a telephone call from the Sunday Times to his home in Nairobi, which he fended off by saying: 'I don't say so in so many words, do I?'

In his autobiography By the Evidence he recalls a visit he made to the British Museum (N.H.) in 1933 to inspect the original fossils. He says:

I was not allowed to handle the original 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.

In her biography of Leakey, Cole says he was just finishing a whole book on Teilhard's connection with the hoax. After his death, his wife prevented its publication as Leakey had no new evidence, and she felt it would damage her husband's reputation more than Teilhard's. p.399 Cole relates that Teilhard actually told Leakey that Dawson was not responsible, but he refused to elaborate.. Leakey pointed out that Teilhard never mentioned Piltdown, and considered that he had not attended the meeting of the Geological Society when the discoveries were announced, as he may have been questioned. Leakey considered that as an ordained priest, Teilhard would have been bound to confess to the fraudulence of the fossils. Leakey appears to maintain that Dawson was involved in the plot, even though Teilhard had said he was not responsible.


Other views

Leakey considered that the Piltdown hoax may have been the work of Teilhard as a practical joke 'in his early and somewhat irresponsible days'. This was also Essex's view (who considered it was aimed at Dawson), and it is Vere's contention in his first book. It would be very difficult to give a precise motive at this distance in time, but if it was the work of a practical joker, who can say if he was intent on fooling one man, a group of locals, or a body of experts? It is noticeable that Vere, in his second book, is much more critical, for he makes no mention of practical jokes, and briefly considers Teilhard's role in the Pekin man discoveries.

Millar, who considers Sir Grafton Elliot Smith may have been the culprit but has little positive evidence to support this contention, admits that the case against Teilhard is very black, particularly in view of the Ichkeul tooth. He says that it was 'just possible that he might [34] have added the Elephas planifrons to gain some kudos'. If this were so, do we assume that there were two hoaxers at Piltdown, either working independently or in league together? The first would be too coincidental, and the second would still implicate Teilhard.

Millar mentions p232 that Sir Wilfred Le Gros Clark and Professor Oakley suspected Teilhard because of the Ichkeul fossil, but felt that his lack of anatomical knowledge and the whole nature of the man exonerated him. Clark also considered Dawson must have had a professional accomplice.

An article in New Scientist 47 quotes Sir Solly Zuckerman as saying that the hoaxer knew more about primate anatomy than the experts whom he deluded several times. The columnist considers that Teilhard's knowledge of palaeontology, geology, anatomy and biochemistry suggests that he cannot be excluded despite the horror expressed by some distinguished people.


Teilhard's philosophy

It is with considerable hesitation that I state the case against a man who has achieved such worldwide fame and is venerated by many. Indeed, when people have considered the case against Teilhard, it is often dismissed 'in view of the whole personality and nature of the man'.

Teilhard has written several philosophical books, in which he attempts to harmonize evolution and Christianity, and the response they evoke is sharply divided. To his admirers, he is a mystical philosopher at the limits of human thought, who had to create new words to express his concepts, and who was able to visualize a wonderful future, culminating in the full development of man's potential. One of his many admirers, Madame Barthélemy Madaule, is quoted by Speaight. p119 She says that the philosophy of Teilhard was

. . . preparing to emerge by way of phenomenological reflection, just as we shall be able to read in the total development of phenomena at the end of time their ontological meaning. And it is only in the degree to which phenomenology is incomplete and philosophy provisional that the two approaches arc justified. . .Phenomenology is the image of creation in time.... The moment had come to achieve this transfigured science of which Bergson had an occasional presentiment. For Teilhard phenomenology is the living spirit of science on the march, and constitutes the prolegomena to a philosophy.

Teilhard's philosophical nature is doubtless inherited, for his mother was a great-niece of Voltaire.

Teilhard is much revered by his admirers, but does have many critics. One of them is C. S. Lewis who wrote to a friend saying:

[35] Have you read this book by the Jesuit de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man) which is being praised to the skies? This is evolution run mad. He saves 'continuity' by saying that before there was life there was in matter what he calls 'pre-life'. Can you see any possible use in such language? Before you switched on the lights in the cellar there was (if you like to call it so) 'pre-light'; but the English for that is 'darkness'. Then he goes on to the future, and seems to me to be repeating Bergson without the eloquence) and Shaw (without the wit). It ends up of course in something uncomfortably like Pantheism; His own Jesuits were quite right in forbidding him to publish any more books on the subject. This prohibition probably explains the 'succes fou' he is having among our scientists . . .



As it is over sixty years since the Piltdown excavations took place, it would be extremely difficult to say with absolute certainty the true identity of the hoaxer. It is submitted, however, that until further facts become available, the evidence given in this section points to the instigator of the fraud being Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J.





A Hoax That Grew
R. Essex, M.Sc.
(An article appearing in the Kent and Sussex Journal,
July-September 1955, Vol. 2, no.4, P.94-95.
reproduced by kind permission of Whitethorn Press Ltd.)


A defence of Charles Dawson, the Uckfield solicitor and geologist. The firsthand account of some happenings of the years 1912 to 1913. Mr. Essex is the only scientist left who was in Uckfield and in day-to-day contact with Charles Dawson during the important years 1912 to 1913. He saw and remembers many things that recent investigators of the Piltdown mystery seem to have missed.

Two books have already appeared on the Piltdown Problem. The first is by J. S. Weiner The Piltdown Forgery (Oxford University Press), and it begins by tracing the steps that enabled a group of scientists to show that the Piltdown jaw was that of a modern ape, then it deals with the steps which led to the statement that all the Piltdown finds were planted and thirdly it gives the results of Dr. Weiner's conversations with a number of people living in the neighbourhood of Piltdown. As a result of all this, suspicion is pointed in Charles Dawson's direction.

The second book is by Francis Vere of Piltdown, The Piltdown Fantasy (Cassell) in which the author critically examines all the evidence, including some which Dr. Weiner did not consider. He comes to the conclusions, first that the hoax would have been short-lived had Smith Woodward not been quite so possessive and if he had, instead, allowed other scientists to examine the jaw itself instead of merely handling a plaster model of it: second that all the Piltdown finds were not planted, because the first finds, the skull parts, were discovered embedded in the gravel and had to be got out with a pick-axe. Thirdly, that if all the finds had been planted, the fluorine test could be ignored since it only applies in the case of specimens which come from the same deposit, and fourthly he comes to the conclusion that Dr. Weiner's travels in Sussex resulted in the collection of a lot of gossip about Charles Dawson which will not bear critical examination.

Being practically in daily contact with Charles Dawson during the important years 1912-15, the present author saw many things which those who have recently been investigating the hoax have ignored.

First. Another jaw not mentioned by Dr. Weiner came from Pilt[37]down much more human than the ape's jaw and, therefore much more likely to belong to the Piltdown skull parts which are admittedly human. I saw and handled that jaw and know in whose bag it came to Dawson's office. The jaw was also seen by Mr. H. H. Wakefield, then an articled clerk of Dawson's, and he has given written evidence of seeing it. Dawson never saw it, and the owner probably never knew until 1953 that anybody but himself had seen it. It happened in this way. I was science master at Uckfield Grammar School, Charles Dawson was Clerk to the Governors and his office was quite near to the school, so near that in getting to Uckfield High Street one had to pass his office windows. One day when I was passing I was beckoned in by one of the clerks whom I knew well. He had called me in to show me a fossil half-jaw much more human than an ape's and with three molars firmly fixed in it. When I asked where this object came from, the answer was 'Piltdown'. According to the clerk it had been brought down by one of the 'diggers' who, when he called and asked for Mr. Dawson, was carrying a bag such as might be used for carrying tools. When he was told that Mr. Dawson was busy in court he said he would leave the bag and come back. When he had gone, the clerk opened the bag and saw this jaw. Seeing me passing he had called me in. I told him he had better put it back and that Mr. Dawson would be cross if he knew. I found afterwards that when the 'digger' returned, Mr. Dawson was still busy in court, so he picked up his bag and left.

From that time until December 1953, I was under the impression that I had had a preview of the jaw from Piltdown seen and examined by the experts. But when, a year and a half ago, I saw a photograph of the Museum jaw from the inner side, I realized that it and mine were not the same. I travelled down from York and put all my information on the matter before the experts at the British Museum. One big difference regarding the jaws was that whereas mine had three molars firmly fixed, the long accepted jaw had two and a cavity or empty socket. An interesting point arises here. The Encyclopaedia Britannica says the jaw had two molars and an empty socket. Chamber's Encyclopaedia published in 1950 says it had three molars in position.

Some time after my visit to Dawson's offices, related above, I was near Piltdown with one of my colleagues when we met Robert Kenward, son of the owner of the farm on which the Piltdown gravel pit lay. He asked us if we had seen X (naming the owner of the bag). X apparently was distractedly searching for something he had lost and would not tell Robert what it was.

The third link is this. I was standing outside Dawson's office talking to him and to John Montgomery, the Headmaster of Uckfield Grammar School and himself a member of the local Archæological Society, and a little apart were two or three others talking. When Charles [38] Dawson said he had never seen anything like the 'sixteen-inch bat' found at Piltdown, Montgomery told him he had seen one in the Dordogne. Montgomery told me afterwards exactly how he saw it, but the point is that as soon as Montgomery said 'Dordogne', Dawson's eyes glanced across to the nearby group of people, one of whom was the owner of the bag. Then he turned abruptly indoors. That information I gave in much more detail, to the experts months before their report was issued.

I am certain Dawson suspected something, although at the time I had no idea what he suspected. He was not the man to broadcast suspicion. In support of this, there is a fact not generally known. It is on record that Dr. S. Allison Woodhead, then Head of the Agricultural College at Uckfield and afterwards County analyst did one analysis for Dawson. As a matter of fact he did several. I knew Dr. Woodhead very well, and I am certain that even to him Dawson never mentioned this suspect or his suspicions in general.

Dr. Weiner mentioned Dawson's experiment with bones and seems to think that Dawson was trying to fake. He was trying to see if they could be faked, which is not the same thing. Further the tale of the boiling of bones in Dawson's office is a complete fairy tale. Dawson did not know enough chemistry to do any real work on such matters; he might have made a few simple tests suggested by Dr. Woodhead. Unfortunately, Dawson died before he could finish.

It might be asked why suspicion has turned on to Dawson. Amongst the people who know the facts there is not one who suspects him.

I have given all the above facts to the scientific team in charge of the matter. I have named X and I have identified him. It is not my business to pillory him publicly. He conceived a joke. It worked far better than he could have hoped in one way and in another it failed; but that was not his fault. It was in a measure the fault of the scientists who did not subject the 'jaw' itself to critical examination and partly it was due to the fact that the people concerned became scattered. Dawson died, Smith Woodward retired; and X ? If Dawson had lived I am certain he would have found out the whole affair, and I should have loved to have been there to listen to the dressing-down to which X would have had to listen. Then he would have had to collaborate in cleaning up the mess.

Incidentally the hoax was not conceived as a whole. It grew. When the first bait was swallowed and the hoaxer did not get the satisfaction of seeing the face of his victim when he realized he had been galled, he tried again and again and in the end all the hoaxer had was the knowledge that in the British Museum was his hybrid offspring which he could not publicly claim, together with a few teeth and a bat.


The Problem of Dawson's Early Discoveries


A careful consideration of various statements by the three investigators concerning what exactly Dawson did discover before they began excavating in July 1912, showed that there were important discrepancies between the accounts, which cast some doubt on the authenticity of certain statements. I will first set out the main points of the various accounts of Dawson's early discoveries, which were made by the three men.



Dawson, in his first report in December 1912, 40 makes it clear that he discovered only two skull pieces before they began excavations, for he said that the first piece of skull was handed to him 'some years ago', then in 1911 he found another piece which fitted the first one, and he took these to Woodward who was impressed. He then continues, 'We started digging . . . we recovered from the spoil heaps as many fragments as possible.... Besides the human remains we found two small broken pieces of a molar tooth of a Pliocene elephant....' (He then lists all the other fossils discovered at that time.) He later says, 'Among the flints we found . . .' and in a footnote attributes the discovery of one of the flints and the portion of elephant's tooth to Teilhard, 'who accompanied us on one occasion', as we have noted.

Thus in the official records, Dawson said he found only two skull pieces, and everything else was discovered after Teilhard and Woodward went to the site.



Speaight gives a letter, written by Teilhard, dated 3rd June 19I2 (Sunday) which appears to be an account of the first day's excavation -the previous day (Saturday). He says, 'Dawson unearthed another fragment of the famous human skull-he had already found three other pieces-and I myself laid hands on the fragment of an elephant's molar.' p44

Weiner says that Teilhard's figure of three is supported by Dawson's obituaries, although this does not appear in the one written by Woodward in the Geological Magazine in 1916.

Teilhard makes no mention of the flint tool (later discovered to be faked), which Dawson said Teilhard found. Did he perhaps find the tool during a visit to the pit when Dawson and Woodward were not present?



On the files of the British Museum, there are several letters which Dawson wrote to Woodward, and Weiner gives some extracts as follows:

14 February 1912

He had 'come across a very old Pleistocene bed . . . which I think is going to be very interesting' - 'with 'part of a human skull which will rival Homo heidelbergensis '.

26th March

Hippopotamus tooth enclosed with a note saying 'will you kindly identify enclosed for me? I think the larger one is hippo' (Woodward confirmed that it was.)

28th March

'I will of course take care that no one sees the piece of skull who has any knowledge and leave it to you.' (Vere says this letter specifically mentions the hippo tooth he had sent on the 26th.)

23rd May

'Some time tomorrow (Friday), . . . I will bring the piece of skull and a few odds and ends found with it, or near it, in the gravel bed.'



Shortly before he died, Sir Arthur Smith Woodward dictated (he was then blind) his book The Earliest Englishman in which he gives his account of the discoveries. He says that Dawson found three pieces of skull which fitted together, and a further two separate pieces which he brought to Woodward in the spring of 1912 for his opinion. He continues, 'We also hoped to find other fossils because Mr. Dawson had already picked up flint tools and teeth of hippopotamus and elephant in the same deposit.' p8

When the excavation began, he says, 'We found three pieces . . . and I found in another heap an important fragment.'

He later says, 'On different days we also picked up three undoubted flint implements, besides several "eoliths" and fragments of a tooth of an elephant....' p.11

(Eoliths are stones which have simple breakage patterns. There was great controversy about this time whether they were fashioned by early man or due to natural causes.)

Finally on p.32 he says, '. . . two teeth of hippopotamus which have already been mentioned as having been found by Mr. Dawson during his earlier examination of the gravel pit.'



From all these accounts it is important to ascertain whether the faked flints and animal fossils were found before or after 2nd June. If these fossils were all found after 2nd June, suspicion would clearly fall on Woodward, whilst Teilhard would be even further implicated, for it would be unnecessary to assume that he had visited the site before the excavations began. As we have seen, Dawson said in his paper that the flints and animal teeth were found after the June excavations. Teilhard makes no mention of them and, moreover, Dawson does not appear to have shown these important fossils to any of his friends who saw the skull pieces before that date.

Considering first Dawson's letters, it would appear from these that he had found a hippo tooth, skull pieces and 'a few odds and ends'. Regarding the hippo pre-molar, it was from a different source to the molar, was stained dark brown throughout, and contained some gypsum and the 'incriminating' chromium. 36p68 As the molar appears to have come from Maltese caves, there is no real evidence that the pre-molar was a forgery, for the chromium may well be due to Dawson's 'hardening' of it in a chromium compound. Thus, there does not seem to be any direct evidence that this particular fossil was fraudulently stained, and it was probably a genuine fossil found in situ at Piltdown, for hippo teeth have been found in England.

The skull pieces, as I have shown, were genuine fossils, and we have, therefore, only Dawson's extremely vague reference to 'odds and ends' as evidence from him that possibly fake fossils were found before June. Could it not simply be that they were merely examples of the very controversial 'eoliths' or else shaped pieces of ironstone looking like small fragments of fossilized bones, all subsequently to be dismissed by Woodward when Dawson brought them for his inspection? Ironstone fragments can look very similar to some fossils, and Woodward, in his description of the discovery of the canine, mentioned that 'they had already seen bits of ironstone that looked like teeth'. Similarly, when Dawson wrote to Woodward on the 26th March, he had included another fragment, which Woodward identified as being simply a piece of ironstone. 24pl20

If this explanation is accepted, Woodward's book is the only evidence which states specifically that any fossils, later found faked. were discovered before June 1912, and we will examine this in detail. Before leaving Dawson's letters, however, I must point out that the only records which Dawson would certainly have read and approved before his death were those in the Geological Society for the years up to 1915. All other correspondence and writings were publicized after his death, when he could no longer comment on their accuracy. Were he alive today, he [42] might well be able to give a satisfactory explanation for the contents of his letters at present on the files of the British Museum.


Woodward's book

Woodward's book contradicts the report presented to the Geological Society in December 1912, in which Dawson gives all the fossils which were discovered during that first season's dig. Woodward clearly says that Dawson had already picked up flint tools p8 and later on p.11 he says that 'we' picked up three further tools. Thus one would presume that some five or more tools had been found. But Dawson's 1912 report lists only three tools being found at that time, and in fact he said: 'Among the flints we found. . . .' There is clearly a discrepancy, and one is left wondering if Woodward was right on p. 8 in saying that Dawson had found flints before June 1912.

Doubt regarding this same passage is further strengthened by the reference to the fragments of elephant's (Elephas ) teeth. Woodward says that Dawson had already picked up teeth of hippopotamus and elephant, and then later says 'we' picked up fragments of tooth of an elephant, indicating that at least three fragments had been found. Again Dawson reported: 'we found two small broken pieces' of elephant teeth. This is confirmed by Teilhard's letter, for it is clear that Teilhard was there to discover the tooth of an elephant, the second piece presumably being found some time later.

Woodward may have used the term 'we' to include Dawson's early finds, but it is clear from the context of the passage that this is not so, and as a trained scientist he should have been accurate with his statements. He makes no mention of some other flint tools and a further piece of elephant tooth found in 1913 in his account of that season's results.

Thus, of the three items he mentions as being picked up by Dawson alone, the flint tools and elephant tooth are in some doubt, and the hippo (pre-molar) tooth is the only item Dawson refers to in his correspondence, which was probably a genuine fossil.


Was Woodward's book altered?

Woodward's failure to mention the flint tools and elephant teeth found during the 1913 dig, and to attribute Dawson with the discovery of such items before June 1912, in contradiction to the Geological Society's report, could infer that he wished to protect his name, should the fraud be discovered at any time. Alternatively, there is the possibility that Woodward's manuscript was altered between his death and the publication of his book four years later. As I have already pointed out, Vere suggested this possibility in view of the fact that Woodward makes no mention of the controversial Piltdown II discoveries, except for one passing comment.

[43] Removal of Woodward's reference to Dawson's finds does not affect the sense of the passages and could be said to enhance them. Ignoring Dawson's vague references to 'bits and pieces', it is possibly significant that Woodward's statements, that Dawson had found tools and elephant's teeth before June 1912, are the only evidence which clearly exonerates Woodward and Teilhard from complicity in the early stages of the hoax.





Within the compass of this book, I have examined the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the most important ape-men fossils, reviewed the type of evidence provided, compared differing views of man's history, and shown how Homo sapiens has been discovered in strata much deeper than those of his supposed ancestors.

Finally, I would specifically point out one aspect, which is apparent throughout this book, namely the meagre fossil evidence for the ape-men links. There arc numerous complete skeletons in the earth's strata, both of Homo sapiens and of animals, including dinosaurs, apes and monkeys.

But the fossil links between man and the animals consist only of fragments of jaws, some broken skull pieces, part of a foot, etc., no complete skeleton or even a reasonable proportion of one ever having been discovered

The speculation and generalizations drawn from the fossil evidence seem to follow an inverse law. Where it is very fragmentary, sweeping claims can be made regarding the position and importance of the 'hominid'. Where more fossils have been discovered, opinions become more conservative, for extravagant claims could be refuted from the available evidence, and whether the fossils are from an ape or a human becomes more obvious. The very fragmentary nature of the evidence supporting the existence of ape-men is sometimes admitted by the experts, but it is nevertheless held to be 'convincing' and 'irrefutable'.

I would venture to contradict such opinions. On the basis of the evidence provided, I suggest that it is very un convincing, and that the case for such links is 'not proven', despite extensive searching of the earth's surface for over one hundred years.

Indeed, this absence of evidence raises the possibility that there are no links, which is a consideration I will leave to those of my readers to whom this book is sincerely dedicated.





BIBLIOGRAPHY [sources referred to in Piltdown ch.]


9 Cole, S. 1975. Leakey's Luck, Collins.

12 Cuenot, C. 1918. Teilhard de Chardin, Burns & Oates (English translation 1965).

16 Keith, A. 1925 ed. The Antiquity of Man, Williams & Norgate.

21 Leakey, L.S.B. 1953 ed. Adam's Ancestors, Methuen.

22 Leakey, L.S.B. 1970. Unveiling Man's Origin, Methuen.

24 Millar, R. 1972. The Piltdown Men, Gollancz.

29 Speaight, R. 1967. Teilhard de Chardin-a Biography, Collins.

30 Teilhard de Chardin, P. 1962. Letters from a Traveller, Collins.

31 Teilhard de Chardin, P. 1965. The Appearance of Man, Collins.

32 Vere, F. 1955. The Piltdown Fantasy, Cassell.

33 Vere, F. 1959. Lessons of Piltdown, E.P.M.

34 Washburn, S.L. (Ed.). 1964. Classification and Human Evolution, Methuen.

36 Weiner, J.S. 1955. The Piltdown Forgery, Oxford University Press.

38 Woodward, A.S. 1948. The Earliest Englishman, Watts & Co.

39 Zeuner, F.E. 1958. Dating the Past (4th edition), Methuen & Co.

40 1913. Dawson, C. & Woodward, A.S. 'On the discovery of a Palaeolithic human skull and mandible in a flint bearing gravel at Piltdown', Quarterly Journal, Geol. Soc. London, vol.60, pp 117-51. (Report of the meeting held on 18th December 1912.)

[188] 41 1914. Dawson, C. & Woodward, A.S. 'Supplementary note on the discovery of a Palaeolithic human skull and mandible at Piltdown', Quarterly Journal, Geol. Soc. London, vol.70, pp.82-93. (Report of the meeting held 17th December 1913).

42 1915. Dawson, C. & Woodward, A.S. 'On a bone implement from Piltdown, Sussex,'Quarterly Journal, Geol. Soc. London, vol.71 p.144. (Report of the meeting held 2nd December 1914).

43 1917. Woodward, A.S. 'Fourth note on the Piltdown gravel with evidence of a second skull of Eoanthropus dawsoni', Quarterly Journal, Geol. Soc. London, vol.73, pt.I,pp.1-10.

44 1950. Oakley, K.P. & Hoskins, C.R. 'New evidence on the antiquity of Piltdown man',Nature, 11th March, vol161, pp.379-82.

45 1953. Weiner, J.S., Oakley, K.P. & Le Gros Clark, W.E. 'The solution of the Piltdown problem', Bulletin, British Museum (Natural History), Geol.2, No.1, pp.139-46.

46 1955. Weiner, J.S., Oakley, K.P. & Le Gros Clark, W.E. 'Further contributions to the solution of the Piltdown problem', Bulletin, British Museum (Natural History), Geol.2, no.6, pp.228-88.

47 1970. 'Ariadne' (Comment on Piltdown hoax), New Scientist, 10th December, vol.48, p.471.

48 1971. Head, J. 'Piltdown mystery', New Scientist, 14th January, vol.49, p.86.

49 1976. Oakley, K.P. Antiquity, vol.L, no.197 (March), pp.9-13.

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