Piltdown Skull To Be Tested

Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 5th, 2012

Piltdown Man, “Discovered” in 1912.

Bodies of evidence: John Cooke’s 1915 painting of the Piltdown men – see large image for details. Photograph: Nils Jorgensen/Rex Features

The Guardian has an interesting read today. In “Piltdown Man: British archaeology’s greatest hoax,” we learn that…

In a few weeks, a group of British researchers will enter the labyrinthine store of London’s Natural History Museum and remove several dark-coloured pieces of primate skull and jawbone from a small metal cabinet. After a brief inspection, the team will wrap the items in protective foam and transport them to a number of laboratories across England. There the bones and teeth, which have rested in the museum for most of the last century, will be put through a sequence of highly sensitive tests using infra-red scanners, lasers and powerful spectroscopes to reveal each relic’s precise chemical make-up.

The aim of the study, which will take weeks to complete, is simple. It has been set up to solve a mystery that has baffled researchers for 100 years: the identities of the perpetrators of the world’s greatest scientific fraud, the Piltdown Hoax.

For more, read here.

Bones of contention: the ‘skull’ fragments with a full-size replica. Photograph: Antonio Olmos

The Piltdown hoax has many levels of mystery, however, and another question that needs to be answered is: What are the species of origin for the Piltdown skull?

As the article notes, the Piltdown hoax was revealed when “a team led by geologist Kenneth Oakley, anatomist Wilfrid Le Gros Clark and anthropologist Joseph Weiner took a closer look and in 1953 announced that Piltdown’s big braincase belonged to a modern human being while the jawbone came from an orangutan or chimpanzee.”

So what can be learned about the “human” skull and what species of “orangutan or chimpanzee” constituted the rest of the hoax? You can’t tell me that no one is curious.

As is often mentioned in cryptozoology and hominology, anthropologists are especially careful about the evidence for Bigfoot because they were fooled so badly by the Piltdown hoax. Standards of “proof” increased after the Piltdown affair, we are told. Perhaps if the detective work done on the 100 year old hoax solves some of the enigmas of this hoax, Science can move on from the post-traumatic distrust that appears to have resulted from that 100 year old event?

A replica of the Piltdown Skull can be viewed at the International Cryptozoology Museum.

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Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

8 Responses to “Piltdown Skull To Be Tested”

  1. Chalupacabra responds:

    Maybe they could also test the famous “Piltdown Chicken,” National Geographic’s Archeoraptor.

  2. Matthew Hardin via Facebook responds:

    Ummm, wasn’t the Piltdown man a complete hoax?

  3. Cass_of_MPLS responds:

    While several prominent names were proposed as being behind the hoax (including Pierre Teilhar de Chardin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…neither of which has a credible motive. And either would have been acting completely against their known characters and principles) the most obvious suspect is Charles Dawson who “collected it” from that gravel pit in East Sussex and who subsequently had it named after himself (the scientific name “Eoanthropus dawsoni” means “Dawson’s Dawn-Man” and he died still enjoying the prestige he had gained from this latest of his many archaeological forgeries.

    Let’s face it…Dawson’s fame (as a fraud and a huckster) is here.

  4. Raymond Minton via Facebook responds:

    Yes, and it fooled most of the scientific community at the time while important genuine finds like Dart’s A afarensis were almost completely ignored!

  5. lancemoody responds:

    Loren writes:

    “. Standards of “proof” increased after the Piltdown affair, we are told. ”

    We are told?

    Do you deny this is the case?

    Loren also write:

    “Perhaps if the detective work done on the 100 year old hoax solves some of the enigmas of this hoax, Science can move on from the post-traumatic distrust that appears to have resulted from that 100 year old event”

    It isn’t any distrust that has held back Bigfoot from being recognized by science. It is the abject lack of evidence that has reduced the topic to the level of buffoonish entertainment.


  6. mungofoot responds:

    lancemoody responds: It is the abject lack of evidence that has reduced the topic to the level of buffoonish entertainment.

    OK, I am far from an expert here but if there is one thing I have learned from all the reading of actual researchers like Loren, Adam Davies and others and also listening to the arguments of obvious skeptics like yourself, it is that many skeptics are “willfully blind” in that they refuse to see the “evidence”, ie. thousands of eyewitness reports and encounters going back hundreds of years across many continents, by people from all walks of life with nothing to gain from their stories, physical evidence in the form of footprints, hair and scat samples, all of which point to there being “something” out there. What is that something? I cannot say, but neither can you state objectively there is nothing to it. Not if you are open minded enough to consider the “evidence”. I do not claim the existence of Bigfoot, I only claim that something real is behind the phenomena that goes beyond hoax or mistaken identity and I look to serious researchers and the scientific method for the answers. I hope you come on the journey with us as I think that skeptics and scofftics may have the most to gain from getting the answers.

  7. alan borky responds:

    Piltdown Hoax or Piltdown Hex

  8. Piltdown responds:

    Ah, my favorite hoax! Cheers!

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