News on the Piltdown Hoax

Originally published in Creation 2, no 1 (January 1979): 19.

One of our alert readers has sent news about an article in Nature magazine (vol 276, Nov. 2, 1978) titled “New Light on the Piltdown Hoax?” The article claims to have fresh circumstantial evidences as to the perpetrator of the fraud.

Interested persons should look up this article, but some of the points mentioned are:

  1. “Not only was the Piltdown skull itself fraudulent but the entire mammalian fauna of the gravels had been planted and the human artefacts manufactured.”
  2. The main suspect to date, Charles Dawson, had to have someone helping him who had an advanced knowledge of anatomy, paleontology and Paleolithic man, and who had access to certain of the items found in the fraud. Much evidence points to Professor Sollas, then holder of the chair of Geology at the University of Oxford.
  3. It seems likely that the hoax was an attempt to discredit one of his contemporaries, Professor Smith Woodward, but that Sollas reckoned without the “wildly enthusiastic reception which greeted Piltdown man.” He intended to expose the whole thing and embarrass his rival, but it probably became “too hot to handle.”

The question which all should ask is this: how could such a schoolboy forgery have fooled the world’s top experts for 40 years? The answer is, of course, that they had found what they were looking for. The force of preconceived ideas is so strong that “scientific objectivity” is usually the victim.


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