Digging Into The Past with FERRELL JENKINS

Ferrell Jenkins
Temple Terrace, FL

The Hoax of the Piltdown Man

Last spring I taught "Introduction to Christian Evidences" at Florida College. Many of the students did some fine research work in the preparation of papers. From among the more than one hundred students in two sections, I requested permission of four students to print their papers as articles in Truth Magazine. This article on the Piltdown Hoax is the first of these papers. The student who wrote this prefers to remain anonymous. Obviously, these articles appearing in my column do so with my complete approval. - FJ

The Hoax

There is a great deal of controversy today over the subject of evolution and the origin of man. The propaganda being perpetrated by many scientists on this subject is every day convincing more people that evolution is an indisputable fact rather than a hypothesis. It becomes increasingly obvious to the observer that the subject of evolution has become a "sacred cow" to many scientists, and that in this area they will accept as proofs much unreliable and scanty evidence that they would not tolerate in any other area of science. Of the many examples of this, one of the most outstanding is that of the story of the Piltdown Man.

The "Discovery"

In 1912, in Sussex, England, a small-town lawyer and amateur fossil collector, Charles Dawson, brought some seemingly important fossil findings to the British Museum. According to Dawson, they had been found in a gravel pit near Piltdown Common where some men had been doing road work. Dr. Arthur Smith Woodward, an eminent paleontologist at the museum, immediately began to help in the diggings.

Woodward and Dawson had luck that they felt was almost too good to be true. Over a period of time, they unearthed some thick boned portions of a skull, a pair of nasal bones, a canine tooth, and a portion of lower jawbone with two molar teeth intact. Along with these were found some 'fragments of extinct fossilized mammals which helped to establish the date of existence of the Piltdown Man, as the fossil was called, as being during the first interglacial period, over 600,000 years ago. ,

When the first pit seemed exhausted of finds, Dawson's attention was drawn to a second site about two miles away. Here the men found two skull fragments, a lower left molar tooth, and some flint tools (as had been found in the first pit), all supposedly belonging to a second Piltdown Man. The discoveries ceased soon after this, however, when Dawson died at the height of his fame.

At the time of the discoveries there arose some controversy over the specimen. The skull seemed to be almost that of a modern man, while the jawbone was distinctively like that of an ape. The two molar teeth that were intact in the jawbone, however, were worn off in such a way that only the human method of chewing could accomplish. The two factors were scientifically incompatible by the standards of earlier discoveries.

Reconstruction of the Piltdown Man

Another difficulty arose in the reconstruction of the Piltdown Man. The skull was rebuilt quite a number of times by several men, and each time it differed in important respects. This is understandable, however, considering the fact that "none of the fragments touch each other" (Andrews, Meet Your Ancestors, p. 122).

In spite Of these difficulties, most of the science world immediately united behind the Piltdown Man as being a "missing link" in the chain of human evolution, and proclaimed it as being "The discovery which ranks next in importance with that of Pithecanthropus (Java Man)" ("Man, Evolution of," Encyclopedia Britannica (1946), XIV, p. 765). It was decided that Piltdown Man was actually a female, and "she" was reconstructed as being apish in appearance, covered with hair, and having a large brain similar to that of modern man. All this, from a few separated skull fragments!

The Hoax Unveiled

After being accepted for over forty years as a great scientific discovery, the fraud of the Piltdown Man was finally discovered. In 1950, a geologist at the British Museum tested the age of the skull fragments and found that they could not possibly be over 50.000 years old - hardly the age necessary to constitute a "missing link." The geologist innocently assumed the jawbone to be the same age. Concerned by this and the numerous other discrepancies connected with Piltdown Man, Dr. J. E. Weiner began to investigate the "discovery" in every possible way. He soon found that every major piece of the Piltdown finding was a fraud. The flint tools were stained to give an aged appearance; the jaw and teeth, actually belonging to a modern ape, were stained and the teeth filed flat to make them appear to be human; and the other fossil findings that had helped to establish the date of the Piltdown Man were "imports" from other excavation sites, and had apparently been planted at the Piltdown site by Dawson.

Dawson's reasons for instigating this fraud will probably always remain a secret, but the attitude of many scientists toward their, "Pet," the theory of evolution, remains quite evident. For, after the hoax was revealed, articles immediately began to appear in magazines defending Darwin's theory even more vehemently, and claiming that the Piltdown Man "was never considered anything more than a remote cousin that left no descendents" (Davis, "Truth About the Piltdown Man," Science Digest, XXXV, (Feb. 1954), p. 19). The story changed rather quickly!


Because of the unbendable closed mind many evolutionists have toward any kind of a creation theory, and because of the ever increasing bombardment of propaganda concerning this controversial hypothesis, every Christian needs to study and be aware of these scientific matters so that he may always be able to "give an answer to every man that asketh concerning the hope that is within you. . . ." (I Peter 3:15).

(Other references: Armagnac, "The Great Piltdown Hoax," The Reader's Digest, LXIX (October 1956), pp. 179-185; Bishop, Man From the Farthest Past; "Piltdown Man Is Hoax," Science News Letter, LXIV, (November 28, 1953), p. 350; Wallbank and Alastair, Civilization - Past and Present, vol. 1, P. 10)

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 10, pp. 10-11
January 14, 1971