In the October issue of PalNews (Thackeray, 2023) I presented a scenario to try to reach closure on the “Piltdown Case”, involving a hoax (intended as a joke) whereby fragments of a human skull (stained brown) were buried together with a broken jaw of an orangutan (also stained brown) at Piltdown in England in 1912, constituting “Eoanthropus dawsoni (Woodward, 1912)”. Here I present an Addendum regarding the joke that went seriously wrong after it had been accepted by palaeontologists as a genuine “ape-man” with a large brain but an ape-like jaw.
“Piltdown Man” was not recognised as a hoax until 1953 such that the validity of the Taung Child, Australopithecus africanus (Dart, 1925), was in question for several decades. Contrasting with Eoanthropus, the australopithecine had a small brain combined with human-like dentition (eg. no diastema).
Thackeray (2019, 2023) identified a trio of suspects in the context of Piltdown 1 (Edgar
Willett, Teilhard de Chardin and Martin Hinton) in 1912 and 1913, with the motive being to
hoist Charles Dawson (a serial fraudster) on his own petard. But it is necessary to respond to
the following statement by Chris Stringer (pers. comm.) who serves as the Devil’s Advocate:
"Unless you can explain away how Dawson had a piece of the Piltdown jaw from which to
extract and ‘find’ Piltdown 2, I don’t see how he can be exonerated"
Here I expand on my scenario:
I thank the Trustees of the Natural History Museum for access to the Piltdown Archives. Further, I wish to express my deep gratitude to Chris Stringer and Chris Dean for stimulating discussions and correspondence.
Thackeray, J.F. 2019. Teilhard de Chardin, human evolution and “Piltdown Man”. Evolutionary Anthropology 28: 126-132. https://doi.org/10.1002/evan.21773.
Thackeray (2023). Three suspects behind the Piltdown Man fossil hoax. PalNews 23(2): 55-57. (Also uploaded as a PalBlog).
Woodward, A.S. 1917. Fourth note on the Piltdown gravel with evidence of a second skull of
Eoanthropus dawsoni. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 73: 1-10.