Making The Piltdown Man
Missing Link Found!
Ape-Men Fact or Fallacy?:
A critical examination of the evidence
M. Bowden 1977
MISSING LINK FOUND!
MAN'S APE ANCESTRY PROVEN!
 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  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.
 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:
Capt. Guy St. Barbe.
H. Morris, an amateur collector.
 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.