Beyond a reasonable doubt?

Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery 1990

Frank Spencer


[188] . .. [T]he faker must have known more about primate anatomy than all the highly distinguished anatomists he deluded. He knew enough to take them in not once but repeatedly . .. If he knew as much as this why did he not satisfy his ego more simply by becoming the foremost physical anthropologist of his day . . . . 1


On Saturday, 21 December 1912, an anonymous article was published in the British Medical Journal describing the now famous proceedings at Burlington House which took place three days earlier. To the casual reader this article may have seemed little more than a summary, but in fact it contained some rather specific information that was not generally known at the time. For example, it stated that:

. . . The scene of this "find" lies some nine miles north of Lewes, in the valley of the Sussex Ouse, which, rising in the Weald, breaks through the South Downs at Lewes, and enters the sea at Newhaven. After flowing eastwards past Sheffield Park the Ouse bends southward. On the north bank, at the bend, about a mile from the river on a flat field near Piltdown Common, in the parish of Fletching, situated 80ft. above the level of the river, this bed of gravel that the fossil bones were found . . . Four years ago farm labourers were digging or deepening a duck pond on the gravel bed; they dug out a "thing like a cocoa-nut" and threw the splinters on the rubbish heap near by. It was from this rubbish heap that Mr. Dawson recovered the greater part of the skull, but the lower jaw was dug out of the undisturbed stratum at a later date by the authors of the communication at the Geological Society. . . . 2

Arthur Smith Woodward quite naturally wondered who the author had been and how he had come by this privileged intelligence. Was it possible that the piece had been written by Arthur Swayne Underwood, his Piltdown dental consultant? The Harley Street surgeon denied it, 3 and, distracted by other more pressing matters, it seems that Woodward did not pursue the matter further.

While rummaging, through the archives of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, Ian Langham discovered, quite by accident, the answer to Woodward's earlier inquiry. The anonymous article had been written by Arthur Keith. In his weekly diary for 1912 (December), Keith had written.

I write for BMJ [British Medical Journal] on the meeting Monday night (16th); on Wednesday [18th] wrote acct. for Morning Post (got home at 12) dined with Reid Moir. On Thursday long interview with Manchester Guardian: thus keeping things as straight as 1 could during the week and thrusting a quiet and fairly effective spoke in the Boyd Dawkins and Smith Woodward wheel. I expect it will be war to the death between the R.C.S. [Royal College of Surgeons] and S.K. [South Kensington Museum] . 4

Langham was, to say the least, fascinated by this extraordinary entry. What particularly attracted the Australian's attention was Keith's admission that he had [189] written the article on December 16th, two days before the event actually occurred! On re-reading the anonymous article it became clear to Langham why Woodward had been disturbed. There was no doubt that the author had been privy to explicit knowledge about the location of the site. Had he been to Piltdown? Or was he simply relaying second-hand information? But it was not just a matter of knowing the exact location; there were other specific details, such as the reference to the discovery in 1908 of the "cocoa-nut", which had been accidentally broken by farm labourers digging in the gravel bed, and how Charles Dawson had diligently applied himself to the task of recovering the remains of the shattered skull.

Arthur Keith, 1912.

From his knowledge of the events preceding the unveiling at Burlington House, Langham knew that Keith had not been allowed to view the original specimens until 2 December. Furthermore, it was patently clear, not only from Keith's diary entry, but other sources, that the Hunterian Professor was not a member of Woodward's inner circle of friends. If Keith had not received this information directly from Woodward, who else could have informed him? Or was there a more sinister explanation? While [190] Langham's suspicions were aroused, it appears that he checked this impulse until he had more to go on.

As Langham discovered, Keith was a very methodical worker. Unlike Woodward he kept a meticulous log of both his Museum and extramural activites. He maintained two diaries: a daily (office) and weekly (home) summary. 5 In the former the entries are brief, often simply amounting to the name of a visitor, while the latter contains more substantive and personal reflections. Langham discovered in the weekly diary that Keith (accompanied by his wife) had visited Piltdown on 4 January 1913:

Yesterday Celia and 1 got up at 7. Caught the Uckfield train London Bridge at 9.7. Uckfield in hollow of tributary valley of Sussex Ooze [sic] – at 11.20. Lunch at Maiden's Head [located in Uckfield High Street]. Head westward on foot across another tributary valley and by one-30 were on the Piltdown Common – heath form of land. Hastings sand bed coming

to the surface. Common used as golf course. Chas. Dawson agent for Bracknor [sic] estate gives notice that turf etc. not to be removed. Through

village of Piltdown leaving Fletching on our right, crossed the slow valley of the Ooze [sic) and up to the village of Newick on other side. Found circular route could not be carried out owing to the state of paths came back

by Piltdown –boys told us where Sussex skull found: fir avenue leading to

farm – white gate: on delta plateau above the Ooze [sic]. didn't see the gravel bed anywhere. Back at the Maidens Head 4.15. Tea and warmth. Left Uckfield 4.17 [sic] Lewes 6.12. Victoria at 7.45. Dinner there and home having walked upwards of 12 miles and tired .6

In light of his article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), it is not surprising that Keith found his way to Piltdown. But what is puzzling, and further aroused Langham's suspicions, is why Keith, having come so far, abruptly terminated his search at the gate to the Barkham Manor House. If, as his diary would have us believe, the objective of his visit had been to view the celebrated gravel bed, why did he not walk the extra couple of hundred yards to the Manor House and complete his mission?

Two weeks after Keith's visit to Piltdown, The Sphere, a London periodical, published an anonymous article on Piltdown, describing where "the most ancient skull in the world was found":

A few days ago, writes a correspondent, I set out for Piltdown Common

I had never heard of this Sussex common until the discovery of the skull, although the heath can boast a golf course. The easiest way to reach it is by main-line train to Lewes, and thence by motor train to the little hillside town of Uckfield. . . . The road to Piltdown pitches up and down due west from the town . . . and about two miles away one plunges down to the stream level and rises again some 80 ft to the common ... I kept on the left-hand road until I approached a spot marked "Barkham" on the ordnance map and then struck across the common towards an avenue of firs. At the side of this avenue was a ferruginous-looking cutting or excavation, simple enough in appearance, but indeed the shrine for which I was making. Closer examination of the gravel showed that it was promising-looking ground – the kind to arouse the expectations and curiosities of the anthropologist and prehistorian. It was strange as one stood at the side of this little trench to think of the interest this spot has created scientific circles . . . . 7

From the notes written by Langham on his copy of this short article, there is little question that he believed Keith had been the author. Unfortunately this is not verified by Keith's diary. Langham's reasons for crediting Keith with the article are based, in part, on the timing of publication, the general similarity between it and Keith's own account of his excursion to Piltdown on 4 January, and the fact that Keith is known to have had connections with The Sphere. 8

[191] Assuming for the moment that Keith was indeed the author, 9 why would he omit reference to this fact in his diary? How reliable are his diaries in this regard? While they are littered with many such references, it is quite evident that not all of his publications are mentioned. It could be argued therefore that it was either innocently overlooked or deliberately omitted. The inference drawn from Langham's notes is that it was the latter, and that his motive for not claiming authorship was grounded in the intention that lay behind the piece. He was convinced that Keith had visited Piltdown before 4 January and that during this earlier visit he had been seen but not identified. 10 Evidently the point that Langham would have gone on to make was that if Keith had written the Sphere article, which explicitly states that he had stood at the edge of the pit, he clearly did not do this on 4 January. Furthermore, as Keith's diary makes clear, from the 5th until the 18th his scheduled commitments would have prevented another trip to Sussex. If indeed he had been to the "edge of the pit", and it was not on the 4th, then he must have visited the pit before. From this it can be inferred that the 4 January entry is, as Langham's notes contend, "deliberately misleading", implying that this was his first visit and that he did not know the exact location. Thus it is presumed that the 4 January visit had been undertaken to establish the fact that he (and his wife) had been to Piltdown but did not know where the pit was located; while the subsequent article in The Sphere was evidently aimed at creating a stampede of visitors to the "shrine" – thereby diverting attention away from his earlier, clandestine visit. But even if the Sphere evidence is unconvincing in support of the case for an earlier visit, it does not invalidate the interpretation placed on the 4 January visit, – that it had been intended to create the illusion that he was unaware of the pit's exact location.

Considered together with the anonymous BMJ article, there now seemed little question in Langham's mind that Keith was in some way involved in the Piltdown affair. But how? Was he simply using the situation to his own advantage or was he more directly involved? As Langham well knew rumours about the Sussex find began circulating sometime before the story was printed in the Manchester Guardian on 21 November 1912. In fact Keith had written to Woodward as early as 2 November requesting an opportunity to view the specimens, 11 but it was another month before he finally saw the treasure. 12 As Keith later noted in his diary, the visit was a relatively short one:

Went down – on way to Zool[ogical Society] tea to Nat. Hist. Museum to see Smith Woodward's remains – early Pleistocene: of which so many rumours have reached me of late days: Got dark when I worked in Hall: lights being turned out. Taken first into his room where he unlocked from his drawers (cabinet) small box with fragments. . . . 13

As Keith goes on to indicate, the purpose of his visit was to examine carefully the actual remains and to view Woodward's reconstruction. Exactly how long he remained at the Museum, studying the pieces, is not known, it was probably not more than an hour at the most. Is it possible that during that time Woodward divulged the information that later appeared in Keith's BMJ article? This is unlikely because there is good reason to suggest that Woodward suspected Keith of being responsible for leaking the story to the Manchester Guardian. (see later). Who else in the South Kensington clique might have been willing to confide in him? The possibilities are limited. By the end of November 1912 Woodward's inner-circle is known to have included (besides Dawson): the Museum preparator, Frank Barlow, Dawkins, Lankester, Pycraft, Moir, Edgar Willett (a close friend of Lankester's), l4 and [192] Underwood. As Woodward's letter to Underwood suggests he had been privy to all the facts, but exactly how much the others knew is not clear. It is known that Lankester and Willett had seen both the remains and had visited the site on 9 November 1912. 15 This is of particular importance since Lankester was a close associate of Moir's, and of all the men in Woodward's group, the one most likely to have confided in Keith was Moir. But while Moir had been allowed to examine the remains at South Kensington early in November, it seems he had not been privy to all of the details concerning the exact location of the site and the circumstances that led to this sensational find. While it remains possible that Lankester may have divulged details of the site's location to Moir, there is no evidence to support this. Also, it is by no means certain that Lankester himself was, at this point in possession of all the facts relating to the prehistory of these finds. Aside from Woodward (and possibly Underwood) the only other person who had detailed knowledge was Dawson. Had Dawson been Keith's source? 16

A search of Keith's diaries failed to establish any direct association between he [sic] and Dawson until 20 January 1913, when he noted in his daily diary: "Chas. Dawson, Piltdown here". While in his weekly diary, he entered: "Today the above [referring to his 5 January entry which recounted the details of his visit to Piltdown] Chas. Dawson came into see me at College. A clever level headed man..– Recalling this visit in his memoirs, published in 1950, Keith wrote of this same visit:

One morning early in 1913, when 1 entered my office at College, I found a gentleman waiting for me. He introduced himself as Mr. Charles Dawson. We had a pleasant hour together. His open, honest nature and his wide knowledge endeared him to me. He quite appreciated the attention I was giving to his special child –Piltdown man! . . . 17

The inference drawn here is that this had been their first meeting. Langham, however, was not convinced. His reasons for doubting this testimony rested largely on a recent reading of Joseph Weiner's transcript of the visit (with Kenneth Oakley) to Keith at his home at Downe, Kent, on the afternoon of 21 November 1953. The purpose of this visit was two-fold. First, it was to soften the blow of the recent revelations, and second, to record Keith's reactions and memories of the Piltdown episode. He had, after all, been actively engaged in the controversy, and with the exception of Teilhard, represented a direct and intimate link with the events of 1912. During the course of this meeting, Keith was asked about his relationship with Dawson:

[Keith said] that he was "an open. honest chap", [and] that he had talked to him often. 'When did you first see him?" we asked. Keith said, "The first time was when he came to see me to apologise for not being in a position to give me the material because 1 was the only man with any real experience, and he appreciated that but because of his long association with Smith Woodward he felt it was not possible.– When was this occasion? Keith thought and said, "Before the famous meeting of 1912", and then suddenly he said, "No, it was in fact afterwards, at the time when I was on bad terms with Smith Woodward–. He seemed to me [Weiner] puzzled that in fact it had been after the meeting (and Oakley and I did tell him that we knew that Dawson had written to Smith Woodward in May 1912, about his pleasure of having discovered the twelfth [sic: should be thirteenth] dorsal vertebra and photographed it under the very nose of Keith) ... [Neither Weiner's nor Oakley's reports of this meeting record if, and how, Keith responded to this latter information] ... [Weiner] then asked him how he had obtained the 1908 date [for the initial discovery of the skull, namely the "coconut" incident, which Keith mentioned specifically in his Antiquity of Man [1925, 11:491]. He [193] was surprised at this. . . He said he was fairly sure that Dawson must have told him this date. 18

The next day Keith wrote to Weiner:

It was passing kind of you and Oakley to make the journey to Downe and to explain so convincingly [sic] the treachery of my old friend Charles Dawson. I'm glad Smith Woodward will never know of it but if you have any means of getting in touch with Dawson do rub it into him that after 40 years you have found him out. After you left I went searching amongst my papers and found a sort of manual I made entries in from time to time in my earlier years at the College of Surgeons from 1908 on. I have a full acct. of my first sight of the Piltdown material a week before the famous meeting on December 18, then one of my visit my wife and I paid to Piltdown a week after the meeting, and then the first relevant note under the date January 28 [sic], 1913 . . . so that must have been my first personal meeting with him. 19

While Weiner's reaction to this (and Oakley's come to that) went unrecorded, it is evident that these documents served to reinforce Langham's suspicions that Keith was not being entirely honest in his account of his relationship with the Sussex, solicitor.

As Langham recognized, the "twelfth dorsal vertebra" incident referred to by Weiner, though suggestive of a prior interaction, did not in itself prove they had met before the time Keith insisted they had. Although both Weiner and Oakley had [193] initially been puzzled by this curious incident, they had ultimately pushed it aside – unable to make anything of it. Langham realized that if he could demonstrate an even earlier connection between Keith and Dawson it would obviously strengthen his explanation of the so-called "twelfth dorsal vertebra" incident. The problem was where in the haystack to look to find the needle. Since Keith had destroyed all of his Dawson correspondence, 20 it was unlikely that any clues remained in existence among his papers at the Royal College of Surgeons. And there was nothing in Dawson's correspondence in the archives of the BM(NH) which gave the slightest hint of an earlier connection. In narrowing the search it dawned on Langham that one thing that might connect the two was their respective association with museums. In Dawson's case he was a member of the Hastings Museum Association. Had Keith had any past dealings with this institution? Keith's diaries supplied the answer. In his weekly diary (1911), under July 15th, Keith noted: "On Thursday went to Brighton Museum Association [meeting] . . ." 21 And as Langham discovered, this Association ran an excursion to Hastings hosted by Ruskin Butterfield, Charles Dawson, Lewis Abbott, and other members of the Hastings & St Leonards Natural History Society and Hastings Museum Committee. According to the Hastings & St Leonards Weekly Mail & Times (15 July 1911) 22 the guests of honour included Francis Bather from Woodward's department at the British Museum (Natural History), Reginald Smith from the British Museum (Bloomsbury branch) and–Mr. Arthur Keith, Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln's Inn Fields . . . " Evidently during this visit Dawson and Abbott gave a guided tour of the archaeological sites around Hastings and later in the day Dawson lectured on the "History of Hastings Castle---. If they had not met before, there could be no question that they met that day. 23

This piece of information cast a somewhat different light on Dawson's reported activities at the Royal College of Surgeons in May 1912. As will be remembered, three months earlier Dawson had told Woodward of his initial findings at Piltdown, but it seems that circumstances conspired against Woodward making the necessary journey down to Lewes to review the evidence at that time. In March, when Woodward was ready, Dawson indicated that his home was being "turned up-side down" by painters and builders, and then there was the weather, "At present the roads leading to it [the site] are impassable and excavation is out of the question", he told Woodward. 24 Shortly thereafter, and no doubt to secure his colleague's continuing interest, Dawson sent him, for identification, a hippopotamus molar he had recovered from Piltdown. Woodward confirmed the diagnosis and cautioned Dawson about letting anyone else know about his recent acquisitions until he had time to fully evaluate them. Dawson replied:

I will of course take care that no one sees the pieces of skull who has knowledge of the subject, and leave all to you. On second thoughts I have decided to wait until you and I can go over by ourselves to look at the bed of gravel. It is not far to walk from Uckfield and it will do us good! 25

In April the prospects were further complicated by Woodward's departure for Berlin to study dinosaur remains collected by a recent German expedition in East Africa. The London Chapter of the German Colonial Society had invited him to lecture on this subject, and hence his visit to Berlin. Dawson's next communication with Woodward was on 12 May, when he wrote:

Since 1 saw you 1 have been writing on the subject of "the 13th Dorsal Vertebra", in certain human skeletons, which I believe is a new subject. I send you the result and if [195] you think well enough of it I should be very much obliged if you would introduce the paper for me at the Royal Society. I am very anxious to get it placed at once because I have had to work the photographs under the nose of Keith and his assistant. I gather from the latter that Keith is rather puzzled as to what to make of it all, and 1 want to secure the priority to which I am entitled . . . . 26

Essentially the subject of Dawson's short paper (8 typewritten [double-spaced] pages) dealt with the occurrence of a thirteenth thoracic vertebra in the human skeleton. 27 The normal number is twelve; whereas apes have thirteen. The loss of a vertebra in the human spinal column was thought to have had something to do with the acquisition of an upright posture. Although Dawson was correct in noting that there was very little in the literature on this subject, earlier that year A-F Le Double (1848-1913), a French anatomist from Tours, had published an extensive study Variations de la colonne vertebrale de 1'homme, et leur signification au point de vue de l'anthropologie zoologique. 28 Keith had been asked by the Royal Anthropological Institute to review the book, and, even more interesting. he did nothing about it for a while. When he finally did get around to submitting his extremely short review of Le Double's work in 1915, he simply noted that: "The late appearance of a notice of this really valuable work is wholly due to an oversight on the part of the reviewer". 29 Why had Keith taken so long to write a ten-line (!) review of such a "valuable work"? Was there a connection between Le Double's book and Dawson's paper? Had Dawson really expected to communicate this paper to the Royal Society and had he really hoped that Woodward might use his authority to push the paper through? Or was the paper merely a camouflage? But to hide what? Langham believed that some time between July 1911 and the beginning of 1912, Dawson and Keith had conceived the plan to fabricate the long awaited missing link. Between January and May 1912 the final details, and in particular the problems surrounding the selection and preparation of the jaw, were settled. Although Dawson's legal work took him occasionally to Lincoln's Inn Fields and the associated law courts, he would have had little or no reason for repeated visits to the Royal College of Surgeons. The "13th Dorsal Vertebra" paper provided him with an alibi – supplied by Keith. Since the paper would never be read it is conjectured that Keith directed Dawson's attention to five specific skeletons exhibiting supernumerary vertebra on display in the Hunterian, and to further assist the solicitor, loaned him Le Double's book. Dawson was proficient in French. Precisely when Dawson took the photographs he used to illustrate his paper is not known, but it is further conjectured that it was done, most probably during the first week of May when Keith was in Jersey examining the La Cotte de St Brelade site which had yielded human Pleistocene remains. 30 This allowed Dawson to establish his story with Keith's assistant (Richard H Burne), who reportedly told Dawson that his boss was "puzzled as what to make of it all", and which lent further weight to the subsequent story he relayed to Woodward.

Precisely how Langham proposed to harmonize this emerging scenario with what was known about Dawson's earlier activities at Piltdown is not immediately apparent from his notes. But one thing is clear and that is his acknowledgement of Dawson's account of the so-called 'coconut" incident.

What is known about this incident? In the official account of the discoveries made at Piltdown in 1912, Dawson presents only a vague chronology of events. Having established that his interest in the Piltdown pit had been aroused by the "peculiar" flints found there, Dawson then noted:

Upon one of my subsequent visits to the pit, one of the men [farm labourers] handed me a small portion of an unusually thick human parietal bone. I immediately made a [196] search, but could find nothing more . . . . It was not until some years later, in the autumn of 1911, on a visit to the spot, that I picked up, among the rain-washed spoil heaps . . . another and larger piece belonging to the frontal region of the same skull. . . . 31

There are, however, some discrepancies between this account and that which Dawson is reported to have given at Burlington House on the evening of 18 December 1912. According to various newspaper reports Dawson is quoted as having said that he was first handed a fragment of a human cranium "four years ago", that this and subsequent fragments constituted the remains of a skull which had been accidentally broken and then discarded by labourers working the gravel bed because to them it looked like a "cocoa-nut". The original notes used by Dawson at the Geological Society on 18 December, confirm this story. Under the heading, "Brief Story of Discovery", he wrote:

Human skull found and broken by workmen. Hence subsequent digging both in spoil material and in bottom layer of gravel left untouched by them. 32

Why this part of the story was omitted from the official report is not at all clear, but whatever the reasons, it elicited no inquiries at the time.

As Steward of the Manors of Barkham, Netherall and Tarring Camois, Dawson had many occasions to visit Barkham Manor and he associated his discoveries with his duties as president of the periodic Court Barons of these estates. Their meetings were held at approximately four year intervals (generally at Barkham Manor House). According to existing records, a Court was convened shortly after Dawson received the Stewardship of Barkham Manor on 27 July 1899, followed by Courts held on 3 October 1904, 10 May 1907, and 4 August 1911.

Later, in 1913, Dawson published in the Hastings & East Sussex Naturalist another account of how he first became interested in the Piltdown gravel bed:

Many years ago, I think just at the end of the last century, business led me to Piltdown. It was a Court Baron at which I was president, and when business was over and the customary dinner to the tenants of the Manor was awaited, I went for a stroll on the road outside the Manor House. My attention was soon attracted by some iron-stained flints not usual in the district . . . .Being curious as to the use of the gravel in so remote a spot, I enquired at dinner . . .where he obtained it . . . I was informed that the flint gravel was dug on the farm and that some men were then actually digging it to put on the farm roads . . . I was glad to get the dinner over and visit the gravel pit, where, sure enough, two farm hands were at work digging in a shallow pit three or four feet deep close to the house. . . . As 1 surmised that any fossils found in the gravel would probably be interesting and might lead to fixing the date of the deposit, I specially charged the men to keep a look out. . . . Subsequently 1 made occasional visits . . . . On one of my visits, one of the labourers handed me a small piece of bone . . . a portion of a human cranium . . . . I at once made a long search, but could find nothing more . . . and soon afterwards made a whole day's search in the company of Mr. Allinson Woodhead MSc, but the bed appeared to be unfossiliferous . . . . [I]t was not until several years later, I lighted on a larger piece of the same skull. . . [and] afterwards I found a piece of a hippopotamus tooth. . . . 33

Aside from Dawson's somewhat misleading description of the pit's location (which he would have had to pass in order to get to the Manor House), this account provides a more definite chronology in which to place other known information, and thereby narrow down the possibilities regarding the date of the "coconut" [197] episode. It is quite possible, bearing in mind Abbott's insistence that he alerted Dawson to the importance of Wealden gravels at the beginning of the century, that Dawson's initial interest in the Piltdown gravel bed dates from either the first Court Baron he attended in 1899, or the second in 1904. As for the proposition that Dawson received the first piece of the human cranium at the time of his third Court in 1907, there is some doubt. While Samuel Woodhead's son, Leslie, suggested that the first find had been made "early in 1908", 34 this was later disputed by Mabel Kenward's testimony. 35 Although confirming the "coconut" story, she was convinced the event had been much later:

Since seeing you [she wrote to Oakley] I have been trying to trace the years – so long ago – I now am quite sure the "coconut" was found in the autumn of 1910 or the spring of 1911. The gravel-pit was flooded always in the winter and so no digging could be done. How I remember it so well is because it was a very wet winter – I was in Paris at the time of the big flood in France – the whole of the Seine valley – and a great part of Paris was under water. . . . So 1 have every reason to remember 1910-1911. In Francis Vere's book–Piltdown Fantasy" [1955] – he says the skull was found in 1911. 36 This was when the digging [of the gravel by the farm labourers] resumed. 37

This much is certain: a skull, or at least part of one, was uncovered and accidentally shattered by farm labourers while working the gravel bed at Barkham Manor, sometime between the spring of 1907 and the autumn of 1911. The latter date is highly questionable, and does not tie in with Dawson's declaration that it had been earlier. It seems most unlikely that he would have made such statement knowing that it could be contested. But if it was not 1911, when was it? It is contended that Dawson's own statement at Burlington House on 18 December 1912, was probably closer to the truth, namely that it was "four years earlier". Whether it was 1908, or even 1909, actually makes little difference. The important point was to establish a case for the archaeological potential of the site, and to fix in popular memory the incident, which later Dawson vaguely linked to the periodic Court Barons.

It is far from certain whether Langham's annotations represent his final position on this matter, but as they stand it would seem that he envisioned the following chain of events. Sometime between 1905, when Dawson's personal and business arrangements changed, and 1910 when his relationship with Woodward is seen to intensify, the solicitor entertained the idea of transforming the Piltdown gravel bed into a major archaeological site. And it is clear from Dawson's correspondence at this time that he had been on the look out for a big find, something worthy of Woodward's attention. 38 Next a suitable skull was procured, an unusually thick one, perhaps an Australian aboriginal skull, which he then placed in the gravel bed and awaited its discovery. Whether he had intended for it to be shattered, or whether he had deliberately modified the skull prior to its planting, Langham does not speculate, but whatever Dawson's intentions may have been in this regard, the next couple of years were spent recovering the fragments in preparation for their subsequent (?) treatment 39 and replanting.

Sometime shortly after the Museum Association meeting at Hastings in July 1911, Langham conjectures, Dawson visited Keith in London to show him a fragment of the skull he had found at Piltdown. It is surmised that it had been the memory of this meeting which flashed into Keith's mind on that November afternoon when Weiner and Oakley came to visit:

. . . The first time was when he came to see me to apologise for not being in a position to give me the material because I was the only man with any real experience, and he appreciated that but because of his long association with Smith Woodward he felt it was not possible. . . .

[198] Langham believed that when Dawson brought this skull fragment to Keith, the discussion naturally turned to the kind of jaw that would be associated with such a thick and apparently very ancient cranium – and it was from this "crucible" that the forgery emerged in its final form.

Given the particular configuration of the cranial fragments and the fact that they had been broken in such a way as to preclude an accurate reconstruction, is it reasonable to suppose that their shape was the result of a fortuitous blow of labourer's pickaxe, or had they in fact been deliberately tailored? It is presumed that it had been the latter. Whether Langham ever considered the possibility that the skull Dawson brought Keith was not the one finally employed, and that there had been a substitution, is not known. This "switch" hypothesis is not an entirely novel one. In fact Weiner had hinted at a such a possibility in his 1955 book The Piltdown Forgery, where he reprints a report from the Sussex Express of January 1954 which states that in 1906 Dawson came into possession of an "unusual" human skull:

Mrs Florence Padgham, now of Cross-in-Hand, remembers that in 1906, aged thirteen, when living at Victoria Cottage, Nutley, her father gave Charles Dawson a skull, brown with age, no lower jaw bone, and only one tooth in the upper jaw, with a mark resembling a bruise on the forehead. Dawson is supposed to have said, "You'll hear more about this, Mr Burley". 40

Exactly what "unusual" entailed neither Weiner nor the article says. Whether Dawson had used this skull or one similar, is of course pure speculation, but the proposition is not an unreasonable one. Besides providing an alternative explanation for the particular configuration of the cranial parts, it might account for the existence of the Barcombe Mills material – though it can be just as easily argued that this material was procured later. If indeed Dawson had brought Keith the latter material, this would further reinforce the necessity for the switch, and perhaps also explain why he went to Keith in the first place, rather than Woodward. The point being that this skull (i.e. the Barcombe Mills fragments), while of interest, was not compelling and certainly not one that would have captured Woodward's imagination; whereas, given Keith's convictions on the great antiquity of the modern human form, it is not difficult to imagine why Dawson might have approached him with such material. But whether this is the case or not, there can be little question that the cranial fragments in both instances would have required modification, and that this would have been done by Keith and not Dawson.

Furthermore, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the selected orangutan jaw was rather unusual. The dimensions of the jaw indicate that it was on the lower range of variation for orang females and as such was a rather rare specimen, and its attraction lay in the fact that many of the usual diagnostic features were poorly expressed. The exact source of the specimen remains uncertain, but there are several possibilities, all of which, as Langham well appreciated, Keith would have had knowledge of and access to. 41 Thus, whatever Langham's stance on the "switch" hypothesis, might have been, his notes leave no doubt – he saw the jaw as the "master-stroke", which he attributed exclusively to Keith. In the meantime, while Keith was preparing this specimen during the spring of 1912, Dawson was busy setting the stage by discretely showing a sample of the Piltdown 1 cranium to a few of his Sussex cronies. 42 The object of this exercise was evidently to "test the waters", while at the same time providing substance to his subsequent story of how the discovery at Piltdown was made.


In entertaining the proposition that Dawson and Keith had been co-conspirators it is necessary to consider what possible motives had driven them in this extraordinary enterprise.

It is conjectured that in Dawson's case his motive' was tied primarily to his ambition to become a Fellow of the Royal Society, an honour that marked the pinnacle of scientific achievement. Achieving this accolade was not an easy matter, but it is evident from his later correspondence that he had seen Piltdown as a possible route. Indeed, in 1914, he secured a certificate of candidacy, which was renewed every year until his death in 1916; 43 and there is every reason to suppose that, had he lived, he would have been duly elected – an eventuality that would have been based almost entirely on his achievements at Piltdown.

But would Dawson have risked his scientific reputation, not to mention his standing in the legal profession, for such an ambition? Given the argument that this forgery had been designed to withstand scientific scrutiny, it is contended that the advantages far out-weighed the risks involved. Although the chances of detection would remain a constant threat, once the discovery had been successfully launched into the scientific arena, the impact of such a disclosure, if, and whenever it came, would be minimized by the argument that he had been "hoodwinked" as had his eminent colleagues. While disclosure was an embarrassing prospect, it is one that a professional solicitor might have lived with far more easily than perhaps a professional scientist, such as Woodward, who had been largely responsible for its promotion – which raises the issue of the Dawson-Woodward connection. In light of Woodward's apparent innocence and Charles Dawson's long-standing relationship with him, is it reasonable to suppose that Dawson had played Jekyll and Hyde with him?

To guarantee the success of a venture such as this required the endorsement of a reputable scientist, one with credentials beyond reproach, who could carry it with conviction into the scientific arena. Woodward was an ideal vehicle, but is it reasonable to suppose that Dawson was capable of behaving in such a cold and calculated manner, and more especially with someone with whom he had long been associated? This is a debatable point, and one that hinges on the fact that it has previously been supposed that they were "close" friends. There is no question that their association was long-standing, dating from the early 1890s, but it is far from clear how close they had been. Based strictly on the surviving correspondence, it would seem that Dawson's association with Woodward prior to 1909 had been rather episodic, whereas, after this time, there is a demonstrable change. Furthermore it needs to be stressed that these letters provide very little in the way of evidence on which to base an accurate assessment of their relationship. The odd reference here and there to Woodward's son, and his passion for cigarette cards (Dawson evidently collected them for "Cyril"), and the occasional invitation not to "forget to look us up when this way", while indicative of a greater familiarity than one would expect from a purely professional relationship fails to substantiate the proposition that they were intimate friends. It is therefore contended that any qualms Dawson may have had in this regard were offset by his own ambitions, and the fact that Woodward actually stood to gain considerably by his involvement in the affair. Even considering the awful prospect of the Piltdown remains being dismantled sometime in the future, his position would be no more awkward than Dawson's, or any of the others who later endorsed the scheduled discoveries at Piltdown.

As with Dawson, it is possible to assemble evidence of a dark side to Keith's [200] persona, and Langham had assembled a long list of his personality traits (extracted from his autobiography). While much of this does little more than advance the fact that Keith was a complex individual, whose life, like so many other human beings, is seen to be filled with contradictory twists and turns, it must also be admitted that there is nothing here which could be used to eliminate him from such a venture. Like Dawson, Keith was highly social, and seemed to thrive on controversy and combat. And it is patently clear from both his autobiography (as well as his private correspondence) that he was both ambitious and willing to take whatever risks might be necessary to promote his career.

Having in 1894 successfully defended his M.D. thesis on the "Myology of the Catarrhini", based on fieldwork in Siam (1888-92), Keith had set his heart on becoming a professional anatomist which would have enabled him to legitimately pursue his first love: anthropology. This, however, was easier said than done and like others before him he was appalled by the lack of opportunities. In the autumn of 1895, Keith finally secured a position, as a demonstrator in anatomy, at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Within months of beginning his formal career in 1897 he published a series of heavily documented articles on the anatomy of the anthropoid apes in the monthly scientific journal Natural Science in 1897. From this base, Keith planned his magnum opus, a book on the evolution of man, and in the same year a contract was negotiated with the publisher John Murray. During the next three years he devoted his spare time to this project and in October 1900 the completed manuscript was transmitted to his publisher. The work, entitled "Man and Ape: A Statement of the Evidence of their Common Origin as it Stands Today", was divided into 22 chapters, made up of 405 pages of typescript, and included 78 original drawings. Three months later Keith's manuscript was returned with a letter extolling the scientific merits of the work, but warning of its limited public appeal. Murray refused to go on with it, despite the contract. Recalling this moment, Keith wrote: "Murray's reception of that book was my bitterest disappointment in my struggle for place and reputation among my fellow anatomists". 44 Although as he noted, the "old Adam, in me was not quite dead", 45 it was plain to him that anthropology, for the time being, would have to take second place to the business of his future in anatomy – and he arranged his research priorities accordingly. It was a sensible move, since the work produced during the next eight years, which he later called "The Waiting Years", unquestionably secured his appointment at the Royal College in 1908. Among this body of work are his researches into the causes of cardiac arrhythmia, and his collaborative work with Martin Flack (1882-1931) on the sinoauricular node of the heart and its role in the initiation and control of normal rhythmic contraction of the heart. 46

In successfully triumphing over the competition for the Hunterian Conservatorship, Keith at last found himself in a position to revive his anthropological interests. It is apparent from his autobiography that on assuming this prestigious position, he saw as one of his main goals the restoration of the Museum to its former glory. In the twenty one years prior to his appointment, the position had been held by Charles Stewart (1840-1907), who evidently did little to build upon the work of his immediate predecessors: Richard Owen (1804-92) and William Flower (1831-99), both of whom had promoted anthropology. In reviewing their respective contributions to the Hunterian collections, Keith was particularly drawn to Flower's section on the prehistoric inhabitants of Britain. From this was to emerge his ambitious resolution to expand the collection, and make it the basis of an anthropological history of the British peoples which would provide him with a focus for his future Hunterian Lectures and promote his mission to transform the Museum into a "Mecca" for [201] anthropologists and students of human evolution. 47 By 1911 these plans were well underway.

This brief survey of Keith's career prior to 1912 would seem to detract from his involvement in the Piltdown affair. Had he not after all secured one of the most prestigious positions in anatomy? Could he not have achieved all of his declared ambitions without Piltdown? Probably, but it is debatable whether his reputation in anthropological circles would have been so well-established had he not had Piltdown around which to organize his work and ideas. Furthermore, there seems little doubt that had it not been for Piltdown, the evidence on which he had based his particular argument for the antiquity of the modern human form, namely the Galley Hill skeleton, and later the Ipswich skeleton, would have collapsed long before it actually did.

As implied in Chapter 3, Keith's obsession with the Galley Hill skeleton was (probably) closely interwoven with his personal and professional ambitions, and in choosing to promote this specimen to support his provocative thesis on the antiquity of Homo sapiens, he was left with few supporters. It is clear that he had kept his options open until 1911, as indicated by his continuing though clearly weakening support for the European Neanderthalers. Although this latter situation was not unique to Keith, the particular stance that he had taken was. The Piltdown remains provided him with the empirical evidence needed to justify the interpretation he had placed on Galley Hill, and it could be argued that had Piltdown not been hovering in the wings, Keith would not have burned all of his bridges in March 1912 when he endorsed the Ipswich skeleton and pruned the Neanderthal twig from the human evolutionary tree.

There appears to be more to Keith's conception of the Piltdown skull than just the mere anticipation of nature. It also seems he had envisioned it as a heuristic device: a means by which he could instruct and advertise his anatomical prowess. It also provided the infrastructure for his prospective history of the British while a copy served as the centre-piece of his anthropological exhibit at the Museum. Hope became reality and, after 1913 the attendance figures for Keith's Hunterian lectures rocketed to an all-time high. 48 Keith had become a celebrity, and he had not discovered a thing except Woodward's mistakes!

If these had been Keith's motives, he would not necessarily have gained by being more intimately connected with the discovery and description of the remains; he would, in fact, have been obliged to adopt a defensive posture rather than an offensive one– and it is much easier (as well as safer) to attack than it is to defend. Since it was impossible to predict precisely how these remains would be received, it made much more sense to launch an attack, which, if handled correctly, would allow him to collect kudos with the minimum of risk.

Seen from Keith's viewpoint his partnership with Dawson was an attractive one. Since Dawson appeared to have no intellectual axe to grind, he offered neither a threat nor an impediment to Keith's intellectual and institutional ambitions. Dawson's aims were simple: fame and a Fellowship of the Royal Society. Although perhaps more subtle, Keith's motives were, in the final analysis, not much different from those of Dawson. They were self-serving. While there were risks involved, provided they remained calm there was everything to gain and nothing to lose. Indeed, once the skull was "launched" neither Keith nor Dawson would be greatly injured by its demolition. But again, provided they played their cards with care, there' was every reason to suppose that this would never happen. The only real problem was securing Woodward's commitment to the finds without arousing his suspicions; it was critical that he should not have the slightest inkling of Dawson's relationship [202] with Keith. Hence the need to secure an alibi for Dawson's visits to the Royal College in the early spring of 1912. After this time Dawson could have had no direct and traceable contact with Keith until after the official unveiling. Thereafter there would have been legitimate reasons to meet, though the real purpose would had to have been camouflaged. They each had their separate roles to play. Dawson was the man on the spot: responsible for delivering a predetermined schedule of finds and monitoring events within Woodward's inner circle. Keith's role was to publicly promote the finds and to nurture the debate. The greater the debate, the greater the rewards.


To secure Woodward's interest it was critical that his initial experience at the pit be a compelling one. Once he was hooked, the all important jaw could be delivered at the appropriate moment. Although Woodward had specifically requested that no one else be involved, especially anyone "who has any knowledge of the subject', Dawson was undoubtedly aware of the obvious advantages of having a witness on hand – particularly a witness whose credentials were beyond reproach. Teilhard de Chardin was perfect. Who would doubt the integrity of a priest? Woodward had not met Teilhard, but he knew of him through the important collection of fossil Wealden plants he had transmitted, through Dawson, to the British Museum (Natural History) .49 The difficulty here was not so much the task of engaging the priest's interest, but rather the problem of synchronizing his schedule with that of Woodward's. But perhaps he thought that showing Teilhard some of the material might render him more flexible.

According to Teilhard, the solicitor visited him at Ore House, Hastings, on Saturday, 20 April:

He brought [to show] me some prehistoric remains (silex [flint tools], elephant and hippopotamus [teeth], and especially, a thick, well-preserved human skull) which he had found in the alluvian deposits not far from here; he did this in order to stir me up to some similar expeditions; but I hardly have the time for that anymore. 56

By mid May, however, it appears that Teilhard was beginning to have second thoughts – as he revealed in a letter to his confrère Félix Pelletier then stationed in Jersey:

I forgot to tell you that when Dawson came along last time he appeared with a large carefully wrapped box from which he excitedly drew one third of the skull of "Homo Lewensis" found by him during these last years in some alluvia. . . near Uckfield. The skull is certainly very curious, of deep chocolate colour and especially of a stupefying thickness. . . . Dawson [also] brought along a sample of the alluvium. . . and species of what is found there: teeth of hippopotamus, elephant (fragments) and one or two very beautiful silex, which were covered with a compact patina. I would like to work there for an hour or two, perhaps that can be arranged. . . . 57

Sometime between May 23rd and 27th Woodward viewed these same remains and arrangements were made for him to visit Piltdown on June 2nd, along with Teilhard de Chardin.

In addition to witnessing Dawson's recovery of another fragment of the "coconut". Woodward saw Teilhard find a fragment of an elephant molar. "He jumped on the piece with the enthusiasm of a youth and all the fire that his apparent coldness [203] covered came out", Teilhard recalled the next day in a letter to his parents. 52 Woodward was hooked, and during the next month additional finds were made, along with the jaw.

The ensuing debate and the opportunities it might create all hinged on Woodward's reaction. It was Keith's expectation that Woodward, under Boyd Dawkins' influence, would attempt a compromise reconstruction but it was most unlikely that he would endeavour to reconstruct the jaw along the lines of Heidelberg. There was also the remote possibility that he might reject it.

Although Woodward had from the outset connected the jaw with the cranium, there is every reason to suppose that he had had mixed feelings about the association once he began the difficult task of reconstruction. Three versions were produced before finally selecting the one presented at Burlington House on 18 December. Evidently it had been these difficulties which prompted Keith to request "a glimpse" of Woodward's "wonderful find" 53 early in November; but at this stage (and for obvious reasons) it seems Woodward had been reluctant to expose his diffidence to Keith. In light of this and the looming threat that Woodward might suddenly give up and dispatch the jaw, it is suspected that either Keith or Dawson leaked the story to the Manchester Guardian. The piece has a definite Keithian ring to it, and it appears that Woodward may have thought so too. "I suspect 1 can identify the thief", he told Boyd Dawkins, "and shall treat him cautiously in the future. If 1 am right, the man has not seen the specimens– has only asked me questions." But whichever of the two was responsible, the article had the desired effect: it brought Woodward out into the open and committed him to the mission he had been chosen for.

On 29 November Keith approached Woodward again. 54 He was getting anxious. In order to gain a tactical advantage in the debate he needed to have seen the originals. Without this his plans for writing the BMJ leader were thwarted, and he was prevented from counselling Grafton Elliot Smith who had been invited to report on the endocranial cast. 55 Was Keith angling to get Smith in his corner, or did he have some other motive in mind? While they were reportedly friends, Langham suspected that Keith was secretly jealous of Smith, and that it may have been his intention to bring the Manchester anatomist down a peg or two. After an anxious weekend, Keith finally received permission from South Kensington, and late on Monday afternoon, December 2nd, he was allowed to view the originals. He diligently recorded the visit in his weekly diary:

Biggest fragment an almost complete left parietal: 2/3 of right. Left rather beyond sagittal sut[ure] which is closed. Bone 10 mm thick. Uniform. 120 long: 90 from zyg[oma] to temp[oral] ridge. 60 to midline: Cor[onal] sut[ure] of modern pattern. Left parietal up to ear angular. Temp[oral] ridge strong in frontal but ext[ernal] ang[[ular] process not prom[inent] although thick and strong: forehead evidently not slanting: but only eminence present: Greater part of left temp[oral] mastoid of modem form: so is meatus and glenoid: so is [? articular] emin[ence] and zygoma except latter is strong. Squam[ous] not expanded. 3rd frontal well seen wide open gyrus ridge - vestib[ular] hiatus big. Petrous rather small. Meningeal came through outer end of petro-sphenoid sinous. Large mastoid [?word].

Part of Occipit[al] from for[amenj mag[num] back said to have lambdoid sut[ure]: certainly on parietal but seems much lower than right. No torus: usual modern occip[ital] markings. [?word] impression small.

Total length 190. Total width= 150. Intermast[?oid distance] 150/ Bifrontal 130. Think they have artic[ulation of] occip[ital] and mastoid all wrong. Lower jaw [body] rather long and ramus narrow. Shallow body and symphy[sis] anthropoid. Teeth about 12-13 [words missing due to crumbled edge of page] . . . Heidel(berg] best ... [remainder of text missing due to crumbled condition of diary pages]. 56


On July 22 1938 Sir Arthur Keith unveiled a monolith memorial in the grounds of Barkham Manor, Piltdown, to mark the site of the discovery of the Piltdown Skull by Mr Charles Dawson.

[205] He omitted to mention, however, his letter to Smith:

I took [in] S[outh]. K[ensington Museum] on my way to the Zoological Tea tonight and saw the Sussex man, or woman rather, for the size of the teeth and small size of the temporal muscles and occipital markings best fit with that idea. The Mastoid, ear and temporo-maxillary joint and zygoma are absolutely of the modem type; the wear on the teeth, the temporal muscle – the form of the joint are incompatible with a big canine. I think they [Woodward] are construing the symphysis region wrongly in supposing they have left 1/2 as far as the middle line. I'm sure there is 8-10 mm missing –even if it were ultra anthropoid that would be the case. The occipital region: the manner in which the head is hafted to the neck is of the modem form. But the thickness of the bone, the flattening and width of the cranial cavity are neanderthaloid –except La Quina was a thin-walled skull. 1 think the c[ranial]. c[apacity]. will turn out to be about 1200 cc –not a small brain is it? I found Barlow trying to reconstruct – 2nd attempt. In the present attempt they have the petrous bones directed almost horizontally inwards with the apices 21/2 inches apart an absolutely impossible distance unless the basilar plate were twice the width of that of the gorilla. At present they are making the skull 150 mm wide. I think the real width should be less but not until they get the occip[ital] bone in its right place. Of course 1 couldn't keep quiet and probably gave more advice than was welcome. But it is a great find: a revelation and a verification all combined. 57

Smith's reaction to Keith's communication is not known, and it is not entirely certain that he ever replied. But whatever Keith's intentions may have been, 58 he was now in a position to proceed.

On 6 December, Woodward wrote to Keith:

The 3rd edition of the lady is now ready and the base now fits the mandible beautifully. I have made a fine theory which I think will please you. 59

Woodward had played directly into his hands!

Two weeks later on 16 December, two days before the official unveiling of the Piltdown remains, Keith prepared his draft of the BMJ leader. In keeping things "straight', while "thrusting a quiet and fairly effective spoke in the Boyd Dawkins and Smith Woodward wheel", Keith wrote:

... [T]he date at present assigned to the Galley Hill man [is Middle Pleistocene]. 60 This opinion, however, was combated; their critics claimed the same age for the human bones as that ascribed to the animal bones found with the human skull. There was thus a sharp divergence of opinion as to the antiquity of the human remains; in the opinion of the finders and their supporters they are Middle Pleistocene; in the opinion of some of their critics they are Pliocene. However that may be, the characters of this very ancient individual are of a more primitive type than any yet found in Europe. 61



During the next three years several more recoveries were made from the Barkham gravel bed which served to nurture and direct the Piltdown debate. It was Keith's primary intention to reconstruct the Piltdown skull to meet his own requirements, 62 and to use this as a prima facie case to support his thesis on the great antiquity of the modem skeletal form. This plan, however, did not unfold as neatly as expected. Contrary to Keith's expectations, Woodward remained committed to his own model of the Piltdown skull– despite energetic attempts, at the Royal College on Thursday, [206] 10 July 1913, to persuade him otherwise Then, to complicate matters, word arrived that the Germans had also taken exception to Woodward's reconstruction. Keith was now left with no option but to publicly demolish Woodward's thesis and promote his own restoration. In an attempt to offset the impact of this step (and evidently to back Woodward up) Dawson told the newspapers that he felt the whole dispute had been grossly exaggerated and that: "It is only after we have finished with the pick and shovel that it will be appropriate to call in the doctors".

Next came the discovery of the "fortuitous canine" tooth, which is believed to have been arranged in a spirit of crisis management, but it is not at all clear who the "Manager" was. Langham's notes seem to favour the idea that it was Dawson acting without Keith's approval. Hs reasons for supposing this seems partly based on the "inferior" nature of this particular forgery, and Keith's attitude during the August debates – and, in particular on Keith's apparent attempt to rename the Piltdown skull. In a nutshell, Langham believed Keith and Dawson were in the middle of a "blue". Without doubt the tooth incident left much to be desired, but despite its many, now obvious shortcomings, the fact remains that it was generally accepted as a genuine find until 1953. Whilst Keith's labelling of his reconstruction "Homo piltdownensis" might have been an ill-considered swipe at Dawson, the solicitor seems to have viewed the matter differently. He was, like Keith, quite aware that such a move was contrary to the International Rules of Zoological Nomenclature. Keith had perhaps done this simply to underline the position he had been forced into at the International Congress of Medicine in London, but in taking this course of action he also knew that he had seriously weakened Woodward's position. The canine served to correct this.

Despite the complications caused by this new find, it actually did little to deter Keith from his original goal. Indeed his unexpected clash with Elliot Smith during the autumn of 1913 allowed him to regain some of the ground he had lost, while at the same time drawing attention away from David Waterston's letter to Nature on November 13th. Since Keith and Waterston regularly played golf together, he probably knew well in advance that this attack was coming. It is therefore conjectured that Keith deliberately goaded Smith in order to create this diversion.

Following the anatomical battle of 1913, it was Keith who was responsible for shifting the focus of the debate to the Pliocene-Pleistocene issue. 63 The so-called "cricket bat," the bone implement recovered in the summer of 1914, was evidently designed to support not only this move, but also to reinforce Reid Moir's case for similar objects found in East Anglia. This in turn assisted in shoring up Keith's highly contentious views on the Ipswich skeleton. Furthermore. in making this move Keith was able to circumvent further public discussion of specific anatomical problems posed by the discovery of the canine tooth.

Of all the finds made after 1913, the most crucial had been those of Piltdown II. Although it is by no means certain if this had been part of the original plan, or something that was put in place later, there is every indication that it was not constructed as Oakley had suggested from the residue of Piltdown I [see fn 30, Chapter 6]. Dawson's allusion to the Barcombe Mills material as a possible representative of an evolutionary sequence in the Weald, compounded with Piltdown I (and II). has a definite Keithian ring, and provides some support to the suggestion that unlike the canine, it had not been the product of crisis management. But whether they had been conceived originally or later, there can be little question these remains had been ready well before the winter of 1915 to counter any attempts that might be made to sever the jaw from the skull. In addition to Woodward, whose loyalty to the earliest Englishman seemed to be wavering in the closing months of 1914, there was


Arthur Keith (circa 1953) in his study at Downe, Farnborough, Kent. (Library,

Royal College of Surgeons, London)



[208] also Courtney Lyne, who suddenly appeared on the horizon. While there does not appear to be a direct link between Lyne's developing interest in the Piltdown debate and Woodward's temporary lapse into uncertainty, there is every indication that Lyne's appearance on stage had played a role in the timing of Piltdown II's "discovery". From all appearances, Lyne's first visit to the British Museum (Natural History) was in December 1913, followed by another in December 1914. 64 And on 9 January 1915, Dawson wrote to Woodward saying:

I believe we are in luck again! 1 have got a fragment of the left side of a frontal parietal . . . [whose] general thickness seems to me to correspond to the right parietal of Eoanthropus.. 65

Several months later, on 17 May, Keith noted in his daily diary: "Lyne here with wild theories". Two months later Dawson reported that he had found a "molar tooth" to go with the earlier cranial fragment. Whether Woodward took possession of these finds at the time or later, is not at all clear. The surviving correspondence seems to suggest that it was after rather than before Dawson's death. It seems that Woodward had also neglected to gather information on precisely where in Sheffield Park Dawson had found the crucial Piltdown II remains. By the time the significance and utility of this material was realized, Dawson lay dying in his bed in Lewes. In light of Woodward's apparent disinterest, and evidently to ensure that these finds would see the light of day, Dawson took the precaution of reporting his discovery to Lankester, who was in the process of completing his book Diversions of a Naturalist, and Dawson knew, would not resist the temptation to note this. But it seems, ironically, that it was not Lankester but the dualist Gerrit Miller who saved the day.

With Piltdown II (and the Barcombe Mills material) in place, the evolutionary significance of the original finds at Barkham Manor were essentially secured. No further plants were necessary. In the meantime, while awaiting the eventual disclosure of the Sheffield Park finds, Dawson and Keith attended to their respective public images. To underscore his detachment from Keith and impartiality in the entire affair, Dawson assumed a distinctly antieolithic posture. Although his paper to the Royal Anthropological Institute in February 1915, antagonized specific members of the Ightham Circle, particularly Lewis Abbott and Harry Morris, and not to mention Moir and Lankester 66 this move did much to enhance his image as an objective scientist, which also did not hurt his still unrealized ambition of receiving a Royal Society Fellowship. Although in this regard Dawson's correspondence registers a continuing impatience with the Royal Society as well as some disappointment in not receiving any formal recognition from the Geological Society for his momentous discovery, it appears that by the summer of 1915 he had resigned himself to waiting for the inevitable. As for Keith, he became less combative, evidently preparing himself for the anticipated moment when he would be called upon to defend Woodward against Lyne's ill-conceived attack. And when it came, his acrobatics did not go unnoticed either by his fellow eolithophiles or Elliot Smith. But as the Hunterian professor explained to Kennard:

... You may be sure that if I had a leg to stand on that 1 would fight: but when you fight you keep an eye not on your contemporaries but on the men that come after you and me – I would rather be right with them than with my contemporaries and you . . . [in] spite of many boyish blunders Smith Woodward's general conclusions will hold true. . . . 67

Keith's prognostications, however, proved incorrect, and during the next two decades his brainchild slipped progressively and irrevocably from grace. Yet in spite of these unexpected developments, the ever resourceful Keith was careful to prepare the way for the inevitable day of reckoning..



1 Zuckerman (1972.:68-9). A similar observation was made at the time of the debunking by Ritchie Calder in his newspaper column (July 1955): ". . . [T]he ingenuity of Person X was fantastic. Not only was he a well-trained, though misguided ANTHROPOLOGIST, but he was a GEOLOGIST, who could reconstruct dues so that his colleagues were foxed. He was an ANATOMIST skilled in bones of man and animals; a DENTIST who could make modem teeth look like prehistoric teeth; and a CHEMIST who could take specimens and make them look genuinely ancient" in P.MSS KPO Newspaper Cutting File.

2 Brit Med J. 21 Dec 1912, p 1719.

3 Underwood to Woodward 30 December 1912, Spencer (1990: 1.3.13).

4 Keith's (private) Weekly Diary, Box D6/KP/RCS. It needs to be stressed here that Keith wrote another article for the BMJ which was published on 7 December. This paper was on "The Functional Nature of Caecum and Appendix." See Brit Med 17 December 1912, pp 1599-1602. Early in 1913 several more articles were submitted and published but these can be accounted for in Keith's diaries and other sources.

5 Comparing Langham's transcriptions from these diaries covering the period December 1912 to February 1913, it is apparent that they reflect a quite different picture with regard to his Piltdown-related activities. The only mention of Piltdown in his "daily" diary is a reference to the 18 December meeting at Burlington House. Later, in January (1913) this particular diary notes Dawson's visit. Given the locations of these diaries it seems safe to assume that the "daily" diary was a more public document, whereas the "weekly" one was more private– whether he kept it secret from his wife is not known.

6 Keith's Weekly Diary 1913, Box D6 KP/RCS.

7 Anonymous article, The Sphere (1913) Vol 53:76.

8 Shortly after the appearance of the anonymous January article, The Sphere published in its February issue a sizeable item on Keith's work about the death of Napoleon, within a section entitled: "A Literary Letter' compiled by "C.K.S.". In September 1913 Keith published an article in The Sphere, entitled "Our Most Ancient Relation". The article was published in his name, and he noted this publication in his daily diary (September 6th): "Sphere - Eo." Later, in January 1914, Keith wrote another article for this periodical on the skull and cast of Robert Bums.

9 Determining authorship of anonymous articles is problematic. There are many statistical techniques that have been applied, and in the case of small articles, a statistical approach applied to the specific frequencies of words, word order and the like are clearly ineffective. For a recent discussion on this subject, see "Statistics and authorship" by M W A Smith in The Times Literary Supplement, 17 March 1989. This Letter to the Editor, provides a very useful bibliography.

10 Langham's reasons for insisting on this clandestine visit were grounded largely in the confident manner in which Keith described the site in the BMJ article. As he knew it was a common practice of Keith's to visit all the sites he described whenever possible. Hence Langham's insistence that Keith had probably visited the Piltdown site before he wrote this article on 16 December. As Langham's papers indicate, he was also cognisant of the popular story Mabel Kenward liked to tell of how she had caught someone at the pit. For example, recounting a version of this story to Kenneth Oakley and Glyn Daniel in August 1973, she remembered: "One evening, early evening, 1 saw this tall man come up, not even up the drive, but across the fields– must have gotten over the hedges and ditches even to get there . . . and he walked to the pit and started scratching about . . . so 1 said excuse me are you an authorized searcher? . . . He didn't say one word . . .might have been a ghost . . . and off he went the same way he came across the fields. . . .He was dressed in an ordinary grey suit but he had gum [wellington] boots on and he was very tall . . . a man in his forties" (see fn 35). Precisely when (and at what time of the year) this particular event took place is far from clear. Langham was convinced that this distant but vivid memory was of Keith's clandestine visit. Her general description of the mysterious interloper fitted Keith perfectly. Furthermore, it provided a possible explanation of why, when he visited Barkham Manor with his wife on 4 January 1913, he did not venture beyond the gate.

11 Keith to Woodward 2 November 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.17).

12 Keith to Grafton Elliot Smith 2 December 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.27).

13 Keith Weekly Diary, Box D6 KP/RCS.

14 Edgar William Willett (1856-1928). After gaining a first class degree in Natural Science in 1879, (New College) Oxford, Willett took his M.B. (1885) and M.D. (1904). His specialty was anaesthesia. According to various obituaries he "retired" from practice in 1906 (apparently he found surgery uncongenial) to devote himself to his hobbies: archaeology and croquet. For further details, see Lancet 21 April 1928, p 837. During the Piltdown period, Willett lived at "Farmleigh", Worth Park, Three Bridges, Sussex. Three Bridges is situated a couple of miles from Crawley. He seems to have been a close friend of Lankester, see Dawson to Woodward 24 March 1912 and 27 May 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.2 and 1.2.9 respectively).

15 Dawson to Woodward 9 November 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.19).

16 Prior to my work at the Royal College of Surgeons I had entertained a number of possible scenarios linking Keith with some of these individuals (other than Dawson who seemed the most likely candidate), [239] namely Moir, Pycraft and Barlow. The latter two, since they worked at the British Museum (Natural History) appeared particularly attractive. Although in Barlow's case it was possible to demonstrate a professional interaction with Keith dating from 1909, I could find nothing else to advance this case. The same applied to Pycraft. The problem here and elsewhere was the need to satisfy the problem of imposition. Given Keith's public prominence in the emerging debate it was unlikely that he would have risked repeated clandestine visits to Piltdown for this purpose. While Barlow could have fulfilled this role, it was evident that Pycraft, who was a cripple, would not have been able to perform this duty. As for the case against Moir there is none– other than that Piltdown clearly provided support for his work in East Anglia. But at the time Piltdown was unfolding, Moir was already heavily committed to dealing with the controversy that had erupted over the significance the rostro-carinate tools (and the Ipswich skeleton) he had found. Hence to suppose that he had attended to these issues at the same time as assisting Keith in the management of the Piltdown forgery seems most unlikely. Furthermore, such a proposition is not in keeping with what is known about his temperament. From all indications he was a highly strung individual, who suffered from insomnia and migraines. At the same time I also briefly considered the remote possibility that Lankester and Willett might have been involved– but again this did not stand up to scrutiny.

17 Keith (1950:328).

18 See Spencer (1990:63.5) for a comparison of the Weiner and Oakley versions of this interview.

19 Keith to Weiner 22 November 1953, Spencer (1990:6.3.6).

20 Reported in Weiner's transcript of the Keith interview, see Weiner 21 November 1953, in Spencer (1990:6.3.5).

21 Keith's (private) Weekly Diary (1911), Box D6 KP/RCS.

22 From Cuttings Book of W Ruskin Butterfield 1909-12, Hastings Museum in Langham papers.

23 It should be noted that at this time Keith knew Abbott.

24 Dawson to Woodward 24 March 1912, Spencer (1990: 1.2.2).

25 Dawson to Woodward 28 March 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.4).

26 Dawson to Woodward 12 May 1912, Spencer (1990:1.2.7).

27 A copy of this paper entitled: "On the Persistence of a 13th Dorsal Vertebra in Certain Human Races", is preserved in the Piltdown Collection (DF 116/16), Library of Palaeontology, British Museum (Natural History).

28 Le Double (1912). It is interesting to note that Le Double had also published a similar treatise in 1903 on the human cranium, and the face (1906). For biographical details, see obituary in Brit Med J 8 November 1913, p. 1265.

29 This short review appears in Man Vol 15, No 37.

30 For details on this site, see Hrdlicka (1930). In 1911 Keith worked on the human (Neanderthaloid) dentition recovered there, see Keith & Knowles (1911). Keith's visit to Jersey was from 2 May through to the 20th.

31 Dawson, in Dawson & Woodward (1913:117-18).

32 Dawson 1912 Notes, DF 116/16, Piltdown Archive, Library of Palaeontology, British Museum (Natural History).

33 Dawson (1913:75-76).

34 See Chapter Seven, section: "WOODHEAD" for details.

35 Taped interview of Mabel Kenward at her home in Piltdown by Oakley (in the presence of Glyn Daniel and Mrs Robin Kenward) on 3 August 1973, in Piltdown Archives, Library of Palaeontology, British Museum (Natural History). According to Miss Kenward the so-called "coconut" had been shattered by Alfred Thorpe, who was one of the labourers working in the pit at the time. Her father, Robert Kenward, is said to have retrieved some of the fragments and brought them into the house. Later the remains were handed back to Thorpe with the suggestion that he give them to Dawson. Thorpe, however, is reported to have "thrown back all but one piece which he later handed to Dawson" (Costello 1985:169). Costello claims that his story was confirmed by Thorpe's daughter, Mrs Emest Sergeant.

36 It should be noted that the name Francis Vere is a pseudonym. Vere's real name is Bannister. Furthermore, he and his wife were lodging with Miss Kenward at the time of the debunking. Francis Vere, like Mabel Kenward, was convinced of Dawson's innocence.

37 Kenward to Oakley 15 August 1973, in P.MSS OAKLEY, Piltdown File, Library of Palaeontology, British Museum (Natural History).

38 See particularly Dawson to Woodward 30 November 1911, Spencer (1990:1A.36).

39 It is possible that Woodhead may have unwittingly assisted Dawson in supplying him with technical information regarding possible ways to stain bone. This information, however, could also have come from Keith. It is also not inconceivable that Dawson (unaided) devised the methods employed. While Keith's input in this matter is unclear it appears that he knew more than has been previously suspected. This is evident from his admission during his interview with Weiner and Oakley at his home in November 1953 that the Piltdown jaw had been stained with bichromate (see Spencer 1990: 6.3.5). How did he know this? [240] According to Keith, Dawson had told him. But why had Dawson elected to tell Keith and not Woodward? And perhaps more revealing, why had Keith remained silent on this crucial matter when Marston had raised the issue in 1936 and again after the War? Prior to 1953 it was generally believed that the jaw, along with all of the remains found after Woodward became involved had not been treated with bichromate. Viewed separately this piece of information is, of course, open to various interpretations, but when compounded with the other evidence presented in Chapter 8, it provides further support for the case against Keith.

40 Cited in Weiner Q19551 1980:194).

41 While it is possible that the Piltdown jaw could have been obtained from a commercial or private source, it seems more likely that it had been procured from a known orang collection such as the one at the British Museum (Natural History) or the Royal College of Surgeons. Keith had a thorough knowledge of the collections of both institutions. At the South Kensington Museum the core of their orang collections (pre-1912) is derived from two major sources. The first is a series of some 20 or more crania and skeletons transferred from the Zoological Society of London, circa 1855 (much of which appears to have been collected by James Brooke (later Sir James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak) in the 1840s.) The second is the Everett Collection, consisting of some 111 miscellaneous osteological specimens that included orangutan crania, recovered from Sarawak caves in Borneo during the third quarter of the nineteenth century, see Everetf's catalogue communicated to the British Association meeting in Sheffield (1879), see Brit Ass Adv Sci Report 1879 pp 149-55. The descriptions in this report are not entirely complete. For example in some instances a cranium refers to both skull and jaw, where in other cases it implies only the skull (minus the jaw). What makes this collection so interesting is that it was closely studied by Arthur Keith during the 1890s. In fact Keith had gone through it, identifying and labelling many of the specimens (which he initialed: "A.K"). There are a couple of crania (minus jaws) represented in this collection that in varying degrees match the Piltdown jaw, but in the absence of accurate records it is impossible to say whether these crania had jaws when Keith first examined them. As indicated by the records of the Hunterian Museum (Royal College of Surgeons) its orang collections had been extensive. In 1941, however, a large portion of this and other parts of the Museum's collections were destroyed during a German bombing raid. After this most of the surviving material was transferred to the BM(NH). Hence, it is impossible to check these records against specimens and to know what, if anything, had been "missing" prior to this event. As noted in Chapter 6, fn 78, Jack Trevor had suggested that the Piltdown jaw might be "Simia moro," belonging to a specimen described by Richard Owen (see Trans Zool Soc (1837) Vol II, Plate XXXIII). An effort was made to track down this specimen at both the Royal College and the South Kensington Museum, but without success. Whatever the fate of this particular specimen a comparison of Owen's illustration with that of the Piltdown jaw reveals some significant differences in anatomy. A much closer fit is the immature specimen shown in Plate XXX. However, it is considered most unlikely that the Piltdown jaw would have been procured from specimens such as these, which were well-documented.

42 Among those (other than the Kenwards, Samuel Woodhead and Teilhard de Chardin), who are known to have seen some of Dawson's materials prior to 2 June 1912, is Ernest Victor Clark (1868-1954) of Lewes, see Weiner memorandum of Clark interview on 12 February 1954, Spencer (1990:6.3.41). Precisely when Clark saw the material is uncertain, but he was convinced it had been "before Woodward came into the picture". Another was Henry Sargent (1891-1983), former Curator of the Bexhill Museum (near Hastings), see transcript of OakIey's interview on 2 March 1954, in Spencer (1990:6.3.48). While Sargent was uncertain whether Dawson had shown him a cranial fragment in 1911 or 1912, he recalled that Dawson said "that he was going to take it to the BM (NH). . . " It is conjectured that this event was probably during the same time period that Dawson showed the material to Clark. Finally, there is every reason to suppose that Dawson did, as Abbott claimed in his Hastings & St. Leonard's Obs. article on 1 February 1913, show him a fragment of the Piltdown cranium before it was shown to Woodward. In fact Abbott hinted at this in a letter to Woodward dated 24 November 1912, in Spencer (1990:1.2.24). Correlating this with what he reportedly told Francis Edmunds circa 1924, namely that "he had worked with Dawson on the Piltdown skull ... [and that it been in his shop] six months before Smith Woodward saw it ..." (see Edmunds to Oakley 24 November 1953, Spencer 1990:6.3.7), again correlates well with the other testimonies, and the inferred scenario.

43 According to this certificate, Dawson's name was proposed by Henry Woodward, seconded by Lankester, and supported by the following Fellows: Smith Woodward, Edwin Tulley Newton, William Carruthers, Clement Reid, Lazarus Fletcher, George William Lamplugh, Horace B Woodward, William Whitaker, and Peter Chalmers.

44 Keith (1950:233~234).

45 Keith (1950:267).

46 Keith & Flack (1906).

47 Keith (1950:317). It should be noted here that among Keith's competitors for the Conservatorship had been Richard H Burne, who had worked under Charles Stewart since 1892. From all indications Burne never showed any resentment of the fact that he did not receive the position, and evidently worked [241] harmoniously with Keith for the next 25 years. According to Keith, they had been friends prior to this event. They first met while Keith was working at the London Hospital in Whitechapel. Writing of their first meeting, Keith noted in his autobiography: "Burne was my own age. He had studied with Professor [G.B.] Howes [who held the chair of zoology at the Royal College of Science, South Kensington] . . . I stupidly supposed he was a hard-up student like myself. He invited me to dinner, giving an address in Gloucester Terrace, where I thought he lodged. I found him master of a West End establishment, married, and already with two children. It was a rich and cultured home, and I was entertained with a magnificence to which I was not accustomed" (Keith 1950:197). Later, in 1907, when Stewart stepped down at the Royal College, Keith and Burne apparently agreed to be "friendly rivals" in the competition for the post (see Keith 1950:285). All of this is mentioned, since it did occur to me at the commencement of the Piltdown project that perhaps Burne might have harboured some deep down resentment against Keith, and that perhaps he and Dawson had been in league together. But as in other cases mentioned, while the notion of Burne's being driven by professional jealousy is superficially attractive, it is a proposition that fails to withstand closer scrutiny

48 See for example "Statement of Attendance at Lectures, 1916, pasted at the front of Keith's daily diary, "Letts No.31 1915", in KP/RCS Box File D7:


Date Lecturer Lecture No attending_______________

Feb 4 J.B.Sutton Hunterian 70

Feb 7 Z. Cope Hunterian 40

Feb 9 J.F.Frazer Hunterian 70

Feb 11 W.B.Bell Hunterian 45

Feb 14 A. Keith Hunterian 270

Feb 16 A. Keith Hunterian 250

Feb 18 A. Keith Hunterian 250

Feb 21 A. Keith Hunterian 300

Feb 23 A. Keith Hunterian 300

Feb 25 A. Keith Hunterian 300

Mar 6 J.E.R.McDonagh Hunterian 130

S. Forrest Cowell (Sec)

9 March 1916

49 See Spencer (1990:1.1.30, 1.1.33, 1.2. 1).

50 Teilhard to his parents 26 April 1912, Letter No 65, in Teilhard (1965) 1968: 190-191.

51 Teilhard to Pelletier 18 May 1912, in Schmitz-Moormann (1981:9).

52 Teilhard to his parents 3 June 1912, Letter No 67, in Teilhard (1965) 1968:198).

53 Keith to Woodward 2 November 1912, in Spencer (1990:1.2.17).

54 Unfortunately a copy of this letter has not been located. Its existence is based on an entry in Keith's daily diary for 29 November: "Write Smith Woodward." Library, Royal College of Surgeons Box D6 KP/RCS.

55 See Dawson (1938:59, fn 3). Here Dawson cites letter, dated 21 November 1912 from Smith to Raoul Anthony, which confirms this arrangement. It is not clear whether at this point he had seen either the originals or received the casts. His letter, dated 16 December, suggests that while he might well have seen the former, he had yet to study the latter. It should also be noted that on 30 November Smith had been an overnight guest at Keith's home in Highbury. Evidently Smith returned to Manchester the next day, see Keith's daily diary, entry for 30 November.

56 Keith Weekly Diary, KPIRCS Box D6.

57 Keith to Elliot Smith 2 December 1912, in Spencer (1990:1.2.27).

58 Although Keith's account of what Elliot Smith is reported to have said at Burlington House two days later shows that he was familiar with the Piltdown parts, he was obviously either guessing at what Smith's inferences would be or deliberately misrepresenting him. The impression given by Keith's article is that Smith had been rather vague in his general conclusions, in that "little more than the general shape can be accurately made out". But as Smith revealed to his audience on the night of the 18th, he had come to a much more positive conclusion: the cerebral hemispheres were asymmetrical in the hind region, which was hardly surpassing given the modernity of the cranial form. Yet, invoking a superior sensitivity in his fingertips, Smith declared that he had been able to trace the course of many of this brain's convolutions, and as such could confirm that it represented "the most primitive and most simian human brain so far recorded". Had Smith played into Keith's hand?

59 See Note D appended to Letter 1.2.27, Spencer (1990). Later, the day before Keith wrote his BMJ article, he made another trip to South Kensington. This visit is noted in his weekly diary under Sunday, December 15th: "Been at South Kensington again seeing Sussex skull. Puzzled about jaw". Box D6 KPIRCS.

60 In the published transcript of the discussions appended to the Dawson & Woodward (1913) communication, no mention is made of the Galley Hill skeleton. While it is possible that Keith's comments [242] on this had been edited out, it is also possible that he had forgotten to mention this on the night of December 18th.

61 Brit Med 121 December 1912, p 1719.

62 Following the receipt of the Piltdown casts in mid May 1913, Keith immediately began working on his reconstruction. While he attended to the cranium, he seems to have secured the assistance of the American dentist J/ Leon Williams (then living in Hampstead) to prepare a reconstructed jaw according to his specifications. It is suspected that Williams was used to create the illusion that it was not just Keith who was dissatisfied with Woodward's restoration, see Illustrated London News 16 August 1913: "Man or Modern Man? The Two Piltdown Skull Reconstructions" in which was figured Williams' reconstruction of the jaw "approved by Keith". The origin of Williams' friendship with Keith is not known and appears to have been quite recent– despite the fact Williams had been in England since the late 1880s. According to his biographer George Clapp (1925:60), Williams delivered a paper "On the Formation of Dental Enamel' to the Royal Society in 1895 [later printed in The Dental Cosmos 18961, but after this little is known of his scientific activities until the Spring of 1913 when he was inducted as a Fellow into the Royal Anthropological Institute [see J. Roy Anthropol Inst (1913) XLIII:724]. It is interesting to note in this regard that Keith was then the current president of the Institute. After the appearance of the Keith-Williams reconstruction in August 1913, sometime in November, Williams abruptly returned to New York. Whether this had been a sudden or planned move is not known. Furthermore, while it is tempting to suggest that Williams had suspected foul-play and had removed himself from the London scene to avoid involvement in a possible scandal, there is no evidence to support the idea that he had been in league with Keith. It is also suggested that Williams may have been the source of Gregory's (1914) reference to the rumour that the Piltdown remains were forgeries (see section on Hinton, Chapter 7).

63 As will be recalled from Chapter 3, following Keith's battle with Elliot Smith, the focus of the Piltdown debate suddenly shifted. This is mirrored to some extent in the exchange between Keith and Boyd Dawkins at Burlington House on 17 December 1913, but more specifically in Dawkins' reaction to what he believed had been a distorted report of this encounter in the Morning Post the following day. This anonymous article was written by Keith. In his weekly diary, under the date 18 December he wrote the following entry: "On 17th a meeting at Geol over Piltdown again find I stand alone without a backer. – However got patient bearing and captured] the Morning Post – which gave me over a col[umn] . . . " Box D6 KPIRCS. It also appears that Dawson knew that Keith was the author! This is known from a letter he wrote Woodward on 20 December 1913, see Spencer (1990:2.3.70). His information had come from the Editor of the Post who had asked for a rebuttal, but Dawson declined the invitation and told Woodward that he had asked Pycraft if he would care to respond to it. The question here is did Dawson learn the author's name from Editor of the Post's or had it come from Keith? If, as it is suspected, it came from the latter, why did Dawson tell Woodward? Was it a mistake or merely a manoeuvre to secure his reputation with Woodward? Either theory is quite reasonable, but it could also be argued that by telling Woodward who the author of this article had been, the intention was to secure a response from Dawkins. Whether Woodward did tell Dawkins has not been determined. Dawkins' letter to the Post is dated 22 December 1913. From all indications the strategy was to draw out Dawkins and thereby expose him to an anticipated attack from Keith's "lghtham Circle" allies –which is exactly what happened, see Chapter Four.

64 [missing]

65 See Spencer (1990:3A.10, 3.1.11, 4.1.9).

66 Dawson to Woodward 9 January 1915, in Spencer (1990:4.1.1).

67 See Chapter 4 for further details. Abbott's displeasure with Dawson's paper is noted in a letter from Dawson to Woodward, dated 9 March 1915, in Spencer (1990:4.1.11) As for its impact on Harry Morris, this is largely inferred from Keith's subsequent behaviour. From all indications Keith went to some lengths to appease Morris, arranging among other things a demonstration of his materials at the Royal College and the Anthropological Institute; hence Keith's note to Major Marriott: "Morris must surely be a little "bucked" up with his growing conquest' (dated 16 October 1916, original in Weiner Papers, MSS WEI File 3). Keith's support of Morris continued into the 1920s. For further details, see Weiner ([1955] 1980:159-61) and Morris' article "A Suggestion as to the Border-land between Palaeoliths and Pre-palaeoliths," in The East Sussex News 17 April 1925. This latter article makes direct reference to Keith's support of his views and work. As to how Morris secured Dawson's Piltdown palaeolith remains a mystery. Finally, it is not inconceivable that Keith's continuing concern with Morris (and Abbott) might have been linked with an attempt to contain the St Barbe-Marriott story.

68 Keith to Kennard 25 January 1916, in Spencer (1990A.2.5). These comments were made in reference to Lyne's paper delivered the night before at the Royal Society of Medicine. Again the intent was to persuade his "lghtham Circle" allies not to "rock the boat".



Gilbert Lancaster's cartoon in the Daily Express, London, 24 November 1953. (Courtesy of Express Newspapers)




The "Piltdown" gravel pit. This photograph is believed to have been taken during the winter of 1913. Note proximity to the manor house and associated farm cottage in the background.






xix Dramatis Personae

The following is a list of major and some minor characters mentioned in the Piltdown narrative, arranged in alphabetical order for convenience of reference. The numeral in parentheses after each name indicates individual's age in 1912. The chapter of the narrative in which the listed individual is first mentioned is given in brackets at the end of each entry. For more complete biographical information, see appended references. [Ed. note: portraits taken from elsewhere in the book]

Abbott, William James Lewis (59): an early supporter and close associate of Benjamin Harrison of Ightham. In addition to conducting archaeological research in the Home Counties, Abbott had considerable influence on the early activities of several leading amateur scientists, most notably Alfred Kennard [11. See The Times (12 August 1933; Proc Geol Soc Lond (1934)-90: 50-1; Kennard (1947); Blinderman (1986: 192-218).

Barlow, Frank Orwell (32): technical assistant in the Department of Geology at the British Museum (Natural Ffistory), South Kensington. Barlow was responsible for preparing plaster replicas of the Piltdown skull as restored under Arthur Smith Woodward's direction. These replicas were later distributed by the R F Damon Company of Weymouth, of which Barlow was a partner [21. See Man (1952) No 102.

Black, Davidson (28): Canadian anatomist. During a sabbatical leave from Case Western University in 1914 Black had assisted Dawson and Woodward at Piltdown. Later in 1919 Black secured a position at the Peking Union Medical College in China where he was intimately involved in the excavations at Choukoutien [41. See Hood (1964) and Spencer (1979).

Boswell, Percy C H (26): professor of geology at Liverpool University from 1917 to 1929. Prior to obtaining a First Class B.Sc (Extemal) at London University in 1912, Boswell taught at the Technical School in Ipswich where be began his researches into the stratigraphy of the Pliocene of Essex and Suffolk. During this time he had been a close associate of Reid Moir [1]. See Biogr Mem Roy Soc Lond (1961) 7: 17-29.

Boucher de [Crévecouer del Perthes, Jacques (d. 1868): former French diplomat and antiquarian. His archaeological studies in the Somme river valley during the 1840s and 1850s were largely responsible for establishing the fact that human beings had once coexisted with extinct mammalia [1]. See Grayson (1983) and Cohen & Hublin (1989).

Boule, Marcellin (5l): French palaeontologist. An opponent of eolithic theory as well as an early critic of Woodward's interpretation of the Piltdown remains [11. See Man (1943) No 24: 42-3 and Hammon (1982).

Breuil, Henri (35): French prehistoric archaeologist (and ordained priest), stationed at the MuOum National d'Histoire Naturelle from 1910 and at the Colk!ge de France from 1929 to 1947 [41. See Broderick (1963).

[xx] Broom, Robert (46): South African (b. Scotland) anatomist and palaeontologist. In addition to being an early and lasting supporter of Dart's interpretation of the Taung fossil, Broom remained loyal to Woodward's monistic restoration of the Piltdown remains [51. See S Afr J Sci (1953) 48: 3-19.

Burne, Richard H (44): Keith's assistant at the Royal College of Surgeons [81. See Obit Not Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1954) 9: 27-32; Cope (1959: 297).



Butterfield, William Ruskin (40): from 1909 through to the mid 1930s, Butterfield was Librarian of the Hastings Public Museum and Library. In this capacity he was on familiar terms with a number of local scientists linked with the Piltdown controversy. In particular, Charles Dawson and Lewis Abbot [61. See Hastings & E Sussex Nat (1935) 5: 57-61.

Clark, Wilfrid Edward Le Gros (17): British anatomist. From 1919 to 1924 he held the chair of anatomy at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, whereupon he succeeded his former mentor F C Parsons at St Thomas'. Four years later he moved to the chair of anatomy in Oxford, in succession to Arthur Thomson (1861-1933). Clark's scientific interest lay primarily in comparative primate anatomy and phylogeny. After the war Clark became an enthusiastic supporter of Dart's views on the phylogenetic significance of the South African Australopithecines, and it was largely in this context that he resurrected a lapsed Readership in physical anthropology at Oxford – a move which brought Joseph Weiner from Johannesburg to Clark's department in late 1940s [5]. See Biogr Mem Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1973) 19: 217-33.

Comer, Frank (50): London physician. An associate of Benjamin Harrison's Ightham Circle of eolithophiles [11. See Nature (1939) 143: 53.

Cunnington, William (d. 1906): a well-known English fossil collector. In the late 1890s he became an energetic critic of the British eolithic movement [1].

Dart, Raymond (19): professor of anatomy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Dart was responsible for describing the first Australopithecine fossil found in 1924 [5]. See Tobias (1984).

Dawkins, William Boyd (75): first professor of geology at Owens College [Manchester University] from 1874 to 1908, and confidant of his former student Arthur Smith Woodward. In addition to harbouring a deep scepticism of Darwinism, Dawkins was a fierce opponent of the British eolithic movement [11. See Proc Roy Soc Lond 107: xxiiixxvi.

Dawson, Charles (48): the principal discoverer of the Piltdown remains. Dawson was a practising solicitor in Uckfield, Sussex where he held several public appointments. His primary scientific interests were in geology and archaeology [2]. See Geol Mag (1916) 3: 477-9.

Doyle, Arthur Conan (53): physician and novelist. Practiced medicine from 1882 until 1890, whereupon he devoted himself full-time to his hterary pursuits. Although a member of the Sussex Archaeological Society, Doyle's interests and knowledge of Wealden prehistory appears to have been rather superficial [6]. See Charles Dawson's pre-1912 correspondence in Spencer (1990).

[xxi] Dubois, Eugene (54): Dutch physician who discovered, in Central Java in the early 1890s, the remains of an early hominid form which he claimed was a transitional form between man and ape [21. See Theunisson (1989); Nature (1941) 147: 473; Man (1944) 44: 76.

Duckworth, Wynfrid Laurence Henry (42): Cambridge anatomist and physical anthropologist. A close friend and supporter of Arthur Keith [21. See Nature (1956) [March] pp 505-6.

Edmunds, Francis H (19): British geologist attached to the Geological Survey. In the mid 1920s, while surveying the Wealden district, Edmunds determined that the elevation of the Piltdown gravel terrace was below 50ft, and not at the 10Oft level as previously estimated. This piece of information later became a critical factor in evaluating the results of Kenneth Oakley's flourine tests on the Piltdown remains [5].

Evans, John (d. 1908): English antiquarian and numismatist. Along with Joseph Prestwich in 1859 he had played a central role in the establishment of human antiquity. Later, be became a leading antagonist of the British eolithic movement [1]. See Evans (1943).

Fraipont, Julien (d. 1910): a Belgian anatomist who described the Spy skeletons found in the mid 1880s, and thereby recognized that the Neanderthals represented a distinct Upper Palaeolithic population [11.

Geikie, James (73): Scottish geologist, and brother of Archibald Ceikie who was former director-general of the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom (1882-1901). In addition to being an early supporter of eolithic theory, James Geikie was also responsible for popularising the idea that the Glacial Epoch [Pleistocenel had involved four major glacial advances punctuated by three mild interglacial periods [11. See Geol Mag (1913) 10: 241-8; Geol Mag (1915) [April] p 192.

Gregory, William King (36): vertebrate palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural History and Henry Fairfield Osborn's "fidus Achates". Although initially supporting Gerrit Miller's dualist interpretation of the Piltdown remains, like Osborn he too eventually abandoned this position [41. See [U.S.1 Nat Acad Sci. Biogr Mem (1975) 46: 91-133.

Harrison, Berijamin (75): British antiquarian and eolithophile. With the support of Joseph Prestwich he became a leading figure in the British eolithic movement during the last decades of the nineteenth century [1]. See Harrison (1928).

Haward, Frederick [james Naim] (41): a mechanical engineer by training and a founding member of the Prehistoric Society of East Anglia. He was a close friend of Samuel H Warren with whom he shared a healthy scepticism of eolithic theory. See Proc Geol Assoc (Lond) (1954) 65: 88-9.


Hinton, Martin A C (29): prior to his appointment as Deputy Keeper in the Department of Zoology at the British Museum (Natural History) in 1921, Hinton had been a volunteer worker specializing in fossil rodents. He also had a peripherat interest in archaeology and human palaeontology, and early in his career had done [xxii] some important and collaborative work in this area with Alfred S. Kennard [4]. See Biogr Mem Feilows Roy Soc Lond (1963) pp 155-70.

Hrdlicka, Ales (43): Curator of physical anthropology at the U. S. National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), Washington D.C. Like his associate in the Departrnent of Mammals, Gerrit S. Miller, Hrdlicka was strongly opposed to Woodward's monistic interpretation of the Piltdown remains [4]. See Amer 1 Phys Anthropol (1940) 26: 3-40; Nature (1943) 152: 349.

Huxley, Thomas Henry (d. 1895): a dominant figure in British science during the second half of the nineteenth century. Among other things he played an important role in the popularisation of Darwin's evolutionary thesis [11. See Fort Rev (1895) 58: 313-16; 317-22; North Amer Rev (1895) 161: 279-86; Nat Sci (1895) 7: 121-5; Geol Mag (1895) pp 337-41; Nineteenth Cent (1896) 40: 274-92.

Jones, Thomas Rupert (d. 1911): a geologist and early supporter of the British eolithic movement [1]. See Quart 1 Geol Soc Lond (1912) 68: lviii-lxi.

Keith, Arthur (46): anatomist and leading supporter of Tertiary Man in Britain. Prior to his appointment as conservator of the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, Keith had served as demonstrator of anatomy at the London Hospital (1895-1908). He retired (in 1932) to become master of the Buckston Browne Institute, a research facility of the Royal Coflege at Downe, near Famborough, Kent. He died in 1955 [1]. See Biogr Mem Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1955) 1: 145-62; J Anat (1955) 89: 403-11.

Kennard, Alfred Santer (42): a London businessman and amateur palaeontologist. Although Kennard's particular interest was Pleistocene Mollusca, he was also an avid amateur archaeologist. in addition to a long-standing relationship with Lewis Abbott, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for eolithic theory, Kennard also did important collaborative work with Martin Hinton [1]. See Quart 1 Geol Soc Lond (1948) 104:lvii-lviii, and Proc Geol Assoc London (1949) 60: 80-1.

Kenward, Mabel (27): the daughter of Robert Kenward who was chief tenant Barkham Manor when the so-called Piltdown skull was found in a gravel pit located on this estate [7]. See Spencer (1990).

Lankester, Edwin Ray (65): in addition to being a former occupant of the chair of zoology at University College, London (1882-90), followed by the Linacre chair of comparative anatomy at Oxford (1890-8), Lankester had been Director of the British Museum and Keeper of Zoology at South Kensii-igton from 1898 until his retirement in 1907. He was an early champion of Reid Moir's primordial flints and Woodward's interpretation of the Piltdown remains. Although an early supporter of the eolithic movement, by the early 1920s his enthusiasm for the great antiquity of these controversial flints was on the wane. See Nature (1929) 124: 309-14, 345-7.

Leakey, Louis S B (b. 1903): an early pioneer in East African human palaeontology. Although a supporter of the idea of the great antiquity of the modern human form, he harboured a rather jaundiced view of the Piltdown remains [5]. See Clark (1976).

Lyne, W Courtney (d. 1949): practising dentist who endeavoured to discredit the canine tooth discovered at Piltdown in 1913 [4].

[xxiii] MacCurdy, George Grant (49): physical anthropologist at Yale University and close associate at Hrdlicka's. MacCurdy was an early supporter of Gerrit Miller's dualist interpretation of the Piltdown remains [4].

Marriott, Reginald A (55): a retired arrny Major living in Lewes, Sussex who devoted much of his sparetime to Wealden geology and archaeology. It appears that Marriott enjoyed the friendship of several prorninent figures connected with the Piltdown controversy – in particular Charles Dawson and Arthur Keith [61. See Weiner (1955).

Marston, Alvan T (23): London dentist and amateur archaeologist. His discovery in the mid 1930s of a Middle Pleistocene horninid cranium at Swanscombe set in motion a new phase in the Piltdown controversy [5].

Miller, Gerrit S (43): rnammalogist working at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), Washington D.C. In 1915 Miller endeavoured to dernonstrate that Woodward's reconstruction of the Piltdown skull was erroneous. He claimed the jaw was not hurnan but that of a fossil chimpanzee [4].

Moir, James Reid (33): a businessman from Ipswich, England with a consuming interest in prehistoric archaeology and an avid eolithophile. Among his most influential supporters were Edwin Ray Lankester and Arthur Keith [1]. See Obit Not Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1942-4) 4: 733-45; Nature (1944) 153: 36&-9; Proc Prehist Soc [Cambridge] (1945) Xl: 66-8.

Morris, Harry (d. c. 1947): an amateur archaeologist and avid eolithophile from Lewes, Sussex. In addition to being a rnember of the Sussex Archaeological Society, Morris appears to have enjoyed the confidence of Arthur Keith and several other notable scientists of the period. For reasons no longer clear Morris had becorne convinced that rnany of the remains found at Piltdown were not authentic, and that Charles Dawson had been responsible for these plants [6].

Mortillet, Gabriel de (d. 1898): a prorninent French archaeologist and palaeontologist who was responsible for formalising the concept of an eolithic industry [1].

Newton, Edwin Tulley (72): a palaeontologist, who besides being a supporter of the British eolithic rnovement, was also responsible for providing the first description and evaluation of the controversial Galley Hill rernains in 1895 [1]. See Nature (1930) 125: 280-1.

Oakley, Kenneth P (1): a geologist and palaeontologist, who joined the British Museum (Natural History) in 1935. After World War II, Oakley developed criteria for dating fossils by companne the fluorine content of modern, subfossil and fossil material of detennined age. The development of this technique was crucial to the subsequent solution of the Piltdown problem [5]. Stearn (1981: 236, 244-7).

Osborn, Henry Fairfield (55); Arnericain palaeontologist; Director of the American Museum of Natural History, New York. Although initially supporting Gerrit Miller's dualist thesis, Osborn was subsequently persuaded otherwise by the discovery of Piltdown II. See Geol Mag (1917) 4: 1936; Quart J Geol Soc Lond (1936) 92: xcii-xcv.

Parsons, Frederick Gyrner (48): professor of anatomy at St Thomas' Hospital Medical [xxiv

School during the height of the Piltdown debates (1912-17). It was Parsons who challenged Arthur Keith in 1914 to reconstruct a skull deliberately broken along the lines of the Piltdown cranium [3]. See Keith (1950).

Prestwich, Joseph (d. 1896): a London wine-merchant and geologist. Besides playing a central role in the establishing human antiquity in 1859, Prestwich was also a major figure in the British eolithic movement during the last quarter of the nineteenth century [1]. See C A Prestwich (1899).

Pycraft, William Plane (44): former assistant of Ray Lankester. After Lankester's departure from the British Museum (Natural History) Pycraft remained attached to the Department of Zoology as an osteologist. He appears to have been one of Woodward's main Museum consultants on the Piltdown remains 131. See Nature (1942) 149: 575; Proc Lin Soc Lond (1943) 154: 293-4.

Reid, Clement (59): a London geologist (attached to the Geological Survey) and critic of the geological interpretation of the Piltdown gravel terrace [1]. See Quart J Geol Soc Lond (1917) 73: lxi-lxiv; Geol Mag ( 1917) 4: 47---8.

Rutot, A Louis (65): a Belgian geologist and leadifig advocate on the Continent of eolithic theory [1]. See Acad Roy Sci Lett Beaux-Arts de Belgique. Annuaire. (1966) pp 3-123.

St Barbe, Guy: an amateur archaeologist who lived in Uckfield, Sussex when the Piltdown remains were first described. In addition to being an associate of Charles Dawson, St Barbe was a close friend of Major Reginald Marriott of Lewes who was thought to have been an associate of the eolithophile Harry Morris [61.

Schoettensack, Otto (d. 1912): a German geologist (University of Heidelberg) who was responsible for describing and evaluating the hominid jaw found in the Mauer sandpits, near Heidelberg in 1907 [21. See Kraatz & Quemer (1967).

Schwalbe, Gustav (68): professor of anatomy at the University of Strasburg who made an influential study of the human fossil record as it existed at the turn of the century [2]. See Anat Anz (1916) 49: 210-21; Smith (1987).

Seeley, Harry Govier (d. 1909): professor of geology and palaeontology at King's College, London during the last decades of the nineteenth century. In addition to being one of Woodward's mentors at King's, he later became his father-in-law [1]. See Proc Roy Soc Lond (1911) 83: xv-xvii.


Smith, Grafton Elliott (4l): British neuroanatomist and anthropologist (b. New South Wales). In 1912, Smith was Professor of anatomy at Manchester University. Later (1919), he moved to University College, London. He was responsible for describing the Piltdown endocranial cast [2]. See Obit Not Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1936-38) 2: 32333; Dawson (1938).

Smith, Reginald Allender (38): British antiquarian and eolithophile. During the Piltdown period he worked under Charles Hercules Read (1857-1929) in the Department of Ethnology and British Medieval Antiquites in the British Museum (Bloomsbury) [2]. See Proc Geol Assoc (1941) 52: 74-5.

[xxv] Sollas, William Johnson (63): professor of geology at Oxford University from 1897-1936. Although a supporter of Woodard's interpretation of the Piltdown skull, he was not an advocate (at least until the early 1920s) of the British eolithic movement [1]. See Man (1937) 36: 212-13.

Strahan, Aubrey (60): a professional geologist, who following completion of his studies at Cambridge in 1870 became attached to the Geological Survey. In 1914, following a stint as president of the Geological Society (1912-14), he succeeded J.J. Harris Teall (1849-1924) as Director of the Geological Survey [11. See Geol Mag (1915) 2: 193-8.

Symington, Johnson (6l): professor of anatomy in Queen's University, Belfast. In addition to harbouring some deep reservations about Woodward's monistic interpretation of the Piltdown remains, Symington was a vocal critic of Elliot Smith's reading of the Piltdown endocranial remains [4]. See J Anat (1924) 58: 275-9.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre (3l): French Jesuit priest and palaeontologist. While stationed in Hastings, England (1908-12), Teilhard became associated with Charles Dawson and Arthur Smith Woodward, and assisted them in their work at the Barkham Manor [Piltdown] site [21. See Cuènot ([1958] 1968).

Thomas, Michael R Oldfield (54): An assistant Keeper (in charge of Mammals) in the Department of Zoology at the British Museum (Natural History). His primary interest was marsupials. He was a close friend of Martin Hinton, with whom he collaborated with in a number of published studies [7]. See Proc Roy Soc Lond (1930) 106: i-v.

Underwood, Arthur Swayne (58): professor of dental surgery at King's College, London with a private practice in Harley Street. From all indications Underwood served as Woodward's primary consultant on dental matters pertaining to the reconstruction of the Piltdown skull [3].

Warren, Samuel Hazzledine (40): a London wholesale merchant with a passionate interest in geology and palaeontology. Although now best remembered for his description of the Clacton flint industry, Warren was a leading antagonist of the British eolithic movement [1]. See Proc Geol Soc Lond (1959): 153-5; Proc Geol Assoc ( 1961) 72: 170.

Waterson, David (4l): British anatomist and early critic of Arthur Smith Woodward's interpretation of the Piltdown cranial remains [2].

Weidenreich, Franz (39): German anatomist who after World War 1 became increasingly vocal in his criticism of the monistic interpretation of the Piltdown skull [5]. See Amer J Phys Anthropol (1949) 51: 85-90.

Weiner, Joseph S (b. 1915): South African anatomist, who in 1953 held the Readership in physical anthropology at Oxford (see Clark). On seeing the original Piltdown remains at a Wenner-Gren symposium held in London in July 1953, Weiner had retumed to Oxford convinced that they were forgeries. With the support of Le Gros Clark his hypothesis was investigated and proved [61. See Ann Human Biol (1982) 9: 583-592.

[xxvi] Willett, Edgar (56): prior to his early retirement in 1906, Willett had been Administrator of Anaesthetics at the Alexandra Hospital for Children and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London (1897-1906). In his retirement Willett evidently devoted his time to serving on the council of East Sussex and to the pursuit of a "keen interest" in prehistoric archaeology – as witness by his periodic communications to the Sussex Archaeological Society [7]. See Lancet (1928) [April] p 837.

Williams, James Leon (60): an American dental surgeon who assisted Arthur Keith in preparing a rnodified version of the Piltdown skull (1913). Shortly thereafter Williams (who had been in England since 1887) suddenly retumed to America [3]1. See Clapp (1925).


Woodhead, Samuel Allinson (50): a chemistry instructor and later principal at Uckfield [Sussex] Agricultural College. A close friend of Charles Dawson, whorn he occasionally assisted in the excavation of the Barkham Manor [Piltdown] site [2]. See The Analyst [J Soc Public Analysts and other Analytical Chem ] (1943) 68: 297.

Woodward, Arthur Smith (48): a vertebrate palaeontologist and Keeper of Geology at the British Museum (Natural History) from 1901 to 1924. In addition to assisting Charles Dawson in the excavation of the Barkham Manor [Piltdown] site, Woodward was responsible for the initial interpretation and reconstruction of the Piltdown skull [2]. See Obit Not Fellows Roy Soc Lond (1945-8) 5: 79-112.

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