Surgeon 'was the Piltdown hoaxer"

by Allan Ramsay

Eveniing Standard June 6, 1990

Scientists at Piltdown in 1912 searching for more

parts of the skeleton

A prominent former member of the Royal College of Surgeons has been accused of masterminding the infamous "Piltdown Man" fraud of 1912 which upset the scientific community for decades.

Scottish anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith, who died in 1955, had the most to gain in academic prestige from the hoax, according to American academic Dr Frank Spencer.

The small Sussex village of Piltdown made worldwide news in 1912 when a skull and jaw of what became known as Piltdown Man was discovered in a gravel pit.

The find was sensational because it offered a completely different Iview of evolution.

But in 1953, the discovery was thoroughly. debunked when the remains were found to consist of a human skull only 200 years old with an orang-utan's jaw fused to it. Dr Spencer, an anthropologist who teaches at New York's Queens Coliege, says Sir Arthur's diary "indicates he had information about the site and events at Piltdown . . . whilch he wouldn't have had unless he was an inside member of the group. This was really the crux of the thing." Dr Spencer has established that Sir Arthur and the man supposed to have stumbled on the remains, Charles Dawson, had met a year before the discovery.

Sir Arthur's strongly-held theory on evolution was that modern humans evolved much earlier and with a larger brain than was generally thought. The human-size skull of the supposedly ancient Piltdovin Man fitted this theory perfectly.

Sir Arthur, who published many studies and books about anatomy and Darwinism was socially prominent, ambitious and willing to take risks, says Dr Spencer.

He says other scientists have agreed that Sir Arthur had the most to gain from the fraudulent find–-but they still have doubts as to his role.

Former Keeper of Palaeontology at the British Museum, Dr William Ball, said that until a signed and detailed confession came to light, the identity of the hoaxer would always be in doubt.

Two books by Dr Spencer on the fraud wlll be published in October by the Oxford University Press

Sir Arthur Keith's name is the last of many prominent scientists to be connected with the hoax. At one stage, Arthur Conan `Doyle, who lived nearby, was suspected.

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