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New genetic and morphological evidence suggests a single hoaxer created 'Piltdown man'

De Groote, I; Flink, LG; Abbas, R; Bello, SM; Burgia, L; Buck, LT; Dean, C; ... Stringer, CB; + view all (2016) New genetic and morphological evidence suggests a single hoaxer created 'Piltdown man'. Royal Society Open Science , 3 (8) 10.1098/rsos.160328. Green open access

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Abstract

In 1912, palaeontologist Arthur Smith Woodward and amateur antiquarian and solicitor Charles Dawson announced the discovery of a fossil that supposedly provided a link between apes and humans: Eoanthropus dawsoni (Dawson's dawn man). The publication generated huge interest from scientists and the general public. However, ‘Piltdown man's’ initial celebrity has long been overshadowed by its subsequent infamy as one of the most famous scientific frauds in history. Our re-evaluation of the Piltdown fossils using the latest scientific methods (DNA analyses, high-precision measurements, spectroscopy and virtual anthropology) shows that it is highly likely that a single orang-utan specimen and at least two human specimens were used to create the fake fossils. The modus operandi was found consistent throughout the assemblage (specimens are stained brown, loaded with gravel fragments and restored using filling materials), linking all specimens from the Piltdown I and Piltdown II sites to a single forger—Charles Dawson. Whether Dawson acted alone is uncertain, but his hunger for acclaim may have driven him to risk his reputation and misdirect the course of anthropology for decades. The Piltdown hoax stands as a cautionary tale to scientists not to be led by preconceived ideas, but to use scientific integrity and rigour in the face of novel discoveries.

Type: Article
Title: New genetic and morphological evidence suggests a single hoaxer created 'Piltdown man'
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rsos.160328
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160328
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 The Authors. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, Eoanthropus, human evolution, geometric morphometrics, DNA, LOWER MOLARS
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Cell and Developmental Biology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1508682
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