Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The Piltdown hoax consisted of a man in which bone fragments were presented as the fossilized remnants of a previously unknown early human. In 1912 from a gravel pit in Piltdown, East Sussex, England; the remains of the parts were of a skull and jawbone. The collector of these bone fragments was Charles Dawson. The significance of the specimen remained the subject of controversy until it was exposed in 1953 as a forgery, consisting of the lower jawbone of an orangutan. Which has been deliberately combined with the skull of a fully developed modern human. The Piltdown hoax is perhaps the most famous paleontological hoax ever. It has been prominent for two reasons: the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time, more than 40 years that elapsed from its discovery to its full exposure as a fake.
The Piltdown man hoax had succeeded so well because, at the time of its discovery, the scientific establishment had believed that the large modern brain had preceded the modern omnivorous diet, and the forgery had provided exactly that evidence. It has also been thought that nationalism and cultural prejudice played a role in the less-than-critical acceptance of the fossil as genuine by some British scientists. It pleased European expectations that the earliest humans would be found in Eurasia, and the British, it has been claimed, also wanted a first Briton to set against fossil hominids found elsewhere in Europe, including France and Germany.
An imperfection that our society is accustomed to human nature, we make faults more frequently than we know. In this situation concerning the hoax, one man found responsibility for the discovery; his name was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creation of Sherlock Holmes. Amongst his “findings”, was the idea of revenge he had amongst the scientific community because they joked of his beliefs on spiritualism. He thoroughly believed in communication with the deceased, in which this rational society did not condone. But looking back at the situation, hypothetically if this was indeed a hoax, why would he have geared a prank towards more humiliation. Another suspect was the man initially to find Charles Darwin, the philosopher known for so many important findings in science and evolution. This suspect had a lot to prove in order to climb the ladder of scientific discovery and ambition. To this day, he indeed is still the highest ranked suspect on this matter. To this day, who knows who it could really be.
It is a huge upset that this was all a hoax, but with an upside to it all, initially the science reputation was saved. Hypotheses were tested time and time again, also did the theories; they must be falsifiable and maybe even Piltdown man would come through. Giles Oakley performed all the tests on the bones to determine somewhat of an age amongst them. The bones involved were tested with chemicals to determine a particular age. It was soon determined that these bones were much younger than originally known to be. They then tested the amount of nitrogen contained, later showing us that the skull was not very old at all. Even though this forgery lastest almost forty years in the making of some truth, it was still the scientific method that eventually proved to be counterfeit.

There is no denying that human flaws are avoidable, because they are definitely inevitable. The humans we have been raised to become, will always understand errors. Human qualities that are good in the nature of us humans are amongst: trust, belief, dedication and aspiration. Without such qualities within our existence, there would be no science and testing out the uncertain. This may have been a hoax but in a more understanding sense, mistakes do occur.


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  2. I will email you regarding your first two paragraphs.

    With regard to human faults, who was the philosopher you speak about that was to initially "to find Charles Darwin"... Who was this?

    What else was going on in Europe at this time that might have contributed to the hoax occurring in England?

    I agree with your final paragraph, though other qualities such as curiosity, skepticism and inquisitiveness come to mind as top characteristics of humans I would not want to lose.

    Life lesson section?

    1. At the same time in the world, World War Two was fully in swing but contributes to this situation due to dating artifacts. Because this method of dating artifacts was established, measuring the fluorine content proved that these "bones" were much younger than originally told.

      As for the life lesson learned, I find it as simple as we are only human therefore mistakes are made. I find that if the human factor was completely taken from the area of science, who knows where science would be. I cannot say that science would ever grow anymore, due to the fact trial-and-error from humans who make the discovers, could not be possible anymore.

      As for the philosopher... I am at work currently and my book is at home! I will get back to you on the specific name at a later time!

  3. Hi Kristina, I find your post to be very interesting. The paragraph I found most interesting was the one where you described the suspects of the hoax. I was not aware that Charles Darwin was such a big suspect for staging the hoax! Also, I liked your last paragraph where you described the human traits that you find to be valuable to society and science as well. Also, how you expressed that although it was a major hoax, we are still humans and make mistakes. Nice post!

    1. Charles Darwin was NOT a suspect for staging the hoax. He died in 1882. I believe Kristina meant to type "Dawson".