Piltdown prankster finally fingered?
The discovery of an old canvas travelling trunk in London’s Natural History Museum has led a professor of palaeontology to claim that he has uncovered the identity of the ‘Piltdown man’ hoaxer.
‘Piltdown man’—constructed in 1912 from stained, fossilized fragments of an orang-utan jaw and a human head—was claimed by evolutionists for more than 40 years to be proof that humans had descended from ape-like creatures. The Piltdown remains were accompanied by a piece of elephant bone which had been carved into a shape like a cricket bat—an appropriate accessory for the supposed ‘first Englishman’.
The perpetrator of the hoax has never been clear. Suspects have included Charles Dawson (the lawyer who first ‘discovered’ the remains in a Sussex quarry), Sir Arthur Keith (the well-known Scottish anatomist), Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Catholic priest), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of the Sherlock Holmes novels).
Now Professor Brian Gardiner, from King’s College, London, says he is certain the perpetrator of the Piltdown hoax was a former curator of zoology at the Natural History Museum—Martin A.C. Hinton, who died in 1961.
Professor Gardiner says a trunk with Hinton’s initials on it, discovered in the museum’s attic, contained fossil elephant and hippo teeth, and various bones which had been stained with iron and manganese in the same proportions as had the Piltdown specimens.
The professor says he first suspected the eccentric Hinton in 1953, while working at the museum as a student when the fraud was exposed. The findings in Hinton’s trunk clinched it for him.
He believes the stained teeth in the trunk were simply test runs for the Piltdown hoax, which was done as a prank on the museum’s keeper of palaeontology, Arthur Smith Woodward, because of a dispute over payment to Hinton for cataloguing work.
Woodward’s reputation suffered markedly over the incident, and he insisted right up to his deathbed that ‘Piltdown man’ was genuine.
That the Piltdown hoax could deceive so many evolutionists for 40 years is extraordinary. That the theory of evolution itself can deceive so many for even longer is tragic.
- Article based on information in The Times (London), and The Independent, 23 May 1996.