Piltdown at 100: A Look Back on Science's Biggest Hoax

Friday, July 05, 2013


A hundred years ago, a human-like skull and ape-like jaw were presented at a special meeting of the Geological Society in London. The so-called "Piltdown Man" became widely accepted as a crucial link in the human evolutionary chain; crucial, that is, until 1953, when the bones were exposed as a total hoax. In an interview from December of last year, Nova Senior Science Editor Evan Hadingham talks to Brooke about this tantalizing example of "scientific skullduggery." 



Evan Hadingham

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Brooke Gladstone

Comments [1]

Martin Dicker

The Piltdown Man can't be all bad;
A mom and pop he never had.
And for brothers, he had none
Indeed he was a lonely one.
An uncle never graced his door,
Nor had he any aunts that bore.

In truth the lad was by himself,
a sprightly, brightly little elf.
All day he'd grunt (or gurgle merry)
And then go off to hunt the berry.
Or else he would swing on the trees
And gather monkeys by the threes.

But best of all did he like swimmin'
With all those hefty Piltdown women.
And at the risk of being rude
I must admit they all swam nude.
But this a difference did not make,
Since Piltdown Man was not a rake.

For on the scale of evolution
He saw himself the last solution.
Oh, others came before him,true,
Ant and beetle, fly and gnu,
but none would ever reach beyond
This Man who rested by the pond.

And he was proud of this you see,
As proud as any Man could be.
He'd often say:"Though you may gape
I'm not an Anthropoidal Ape
And even if you get quite prac'tl
I'm not a foolish pterodactyl.

And so he went his merry way
While here and there he stopped to play.
And, yes!! he though he was a lord,
Yet all the while he was a fraud.

Martin Dicker

Jul. 09 2013 01:50 PM

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