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 The Piltdown Man Hoax

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Islanddawn
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PostSubject: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Fri 14 Dec 2012, 10:55

Of the 12 suspects who have been accused in the fraud, who are the most likley suspects? Was it a deliberate attempt to falsify the scientific record or merely a bit of devilry and a practical joke? And what effect did the hoax have on future research into our distant past?

The Piltdown Hoax is one of the most successful scientific frauds in
history. In December 1912, British paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward
and amateur antiquarian Charles Dawson announced to the world that
they'd found an amazing early human fossil in Piltdown, England. The
curious specimen had a humanlike skull with an apelike jaw. Given the
scientific name Eoanthropus dawsoni, it was more commonly called Piltdown Man.

Dawson and Woodward also reported that alongside Piltdown Man were a
number of other stunning finds: stone tools, fossilized mammals and even
an elephant bone. In 1916, Dawson claimed to have found more remains at
a second site nearby.



Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/12/13/history-biggest-scientific-fraud-goes-under-microscope/#ixzz2F1PIm67b
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Fri 14 Dec 2012, 11:10

Dawson has to have been the main perpetrator of the fraud, or at least the one who started something which then grew out of hand (the missing link's cricket bat found under a hedge at one point hints at others with or without his knowledge joining in). The jesuit priest's painted tooth suggests complicity on at least one other's part.

The fraud itself was exposed in the 1950s but in truth there had always been a huge amount of scepticism regarding the objects. It strikes me as a case of where Woodward made a hasty and ill-advised assessment and then was too proud or frightened to back down. From the very beginning however American anthropologists and palaeonthologists were pointing out the rather obvious and uncomfortable truth about Piltdown Man. It wasn't a fossil. It was actual bone.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Sat 15 Dec 2012, 15:21

I read a series of articles many years ago in New Scientist in which they suggested the painted tooth and the Piltdown cricket bat were planted by someone who realised that it was a fraud and was trying to expose it. They didi give the name of this person but I cannot now remember who it was.

If the fraud had used an ape scull with a human jaw then it might have taken longer for it to be exposed. Piltdown man just did not fit in with other later genuine fossil finds.

Not surprisingly the fraud has been jumped upon by creationists.

Tim
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Mon 17 Dec 2012, 08:31

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brenogler
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Tue 01 Jan 2013, 22:06

If one had to look for someone who was used to twisting evidence to meet his own ends, how could you go beyond Dawson - a solicitor?

Oh, hang on, we also had a priest involved.

The only thing I'd feel confident of is that the scientist was the rather naive patsy.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Wed 02 Oct 2013, 12:34

An ex-boyfriend of mine had a story about going with his brother (when they were children) to their local Museum to have a genuine Roman spear-point authenticated and being really disappointed that it turned out to be the genuine top of a park railing!!!  Weren't archaeological hoaxes quite common at one point? I had a fixed-term contract at a Museum a few years ago (nothing thrilling, just data-entry, though you did have to have a bit of brain to put the correct bits of information in the correct box).  For the last few days of my contract I was transcribing the records of certain artifacts into Access and some were mentioned as being "Flint Jack's Work".  I assume the Museum had kept the fakes manufactured by "Flint Jack" as curiosities.  Then Jonathan Gash wrote the successful Lovejoy novels (which were much less saccharine than the TV series with Ian McShane) about a forger of antiques.

When people go to great lengths to execute elaborate hoaxes, such as the Piltdown Man hoax, I always wonder why they couldn't use their ingenuity and creativity to do something legitimate.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Wed 02 Oct 2013, 14:03

Quite often they had tried to do something legitimate in the pursuit of a pet theory - or in search of recognition for that - and when the real goods didn't turn up, well, they 'discovered' them A good example is A.L. Armstrong's 'goddess' residing in the BM. 



Armstrong was a 'proper' archaeologist and spent years excavating the Grimes Graves flint mines. He was convinced they were palaeolithic although most others believed they were much younger but he could never find the evidence until, in 1939, he emerged clutching the figurine above. It was, he asserted, found at the bottom of a deep pit and placed on a sort of altar and was obviously of a similar age to the so called goddess figures that had been found on the continent. Bingo, not only was he vindicated but England could claim the same time depth of palaeolithic art as those foreign bods. Immediately there was widespread scepticism in the profession but it wasn't discussed publicly for decades and this perception was not diminished by the fact that he had arranged to be working alone that day and he hadn't recorded it in his dig diary. An accomplished chalk carver was a member of his team.
Since the figure is chalk it couldn't be dated conclusively and I'm not aware if any further investigations have been carried out. The mine complex itself however is securely dated to the Neolithic. Nor can it be ascertained if he planted it himself or if it had been left for him to find but either way, it's almost certainly a hoax, fraud, deception, whatever you might wish to call it.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Wed 02 Oct 2013, 14:20

That's interesting, Ferval.  If one is a basically honest person oneself it can come as a bit of shock when other people aren't.  I'm not so perfect that I haven't told the odd white (or grey) "porkie" and I'm a lot less naive than I used to be but I consider myself fundamentally honest. It's a bit worrying if there is a fraud exhibited as a genuine item in a high profile Museum such as the one you mention .....

In my first post in this thread I never factored in the possibility of somebody wanting to prove (for his/her own private satisfaction I guess) that they were clever and could hoodwink other people.
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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: The Piltdown Man Hoax   Thu 02 Aug 2018, 11:53

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
Weren't archaeological hoaxes quite common at one point? I had a fixed-term contract at a Museum a few years ago (nothing thrilling, just data-entry, though you did have to have a bit of brain to put the correct bits of information in the correct box).  For the last few days of my contract I was transcribing the records of certain artifacts into Access and some were mentioned as being "Flint Jack's Work".  I assume the Museum had kept the fakes manufactured by "Flint Jack" as curiosities.

I came across this article about the life of Flint Jack a.k.a. Edward Simpson of Whitby in Yorkshire:

Flint Jack: Archaeological Forger

A further mystery is that the date and place of his death are unknown.
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