No Evidence to Prove First Scientific Crime Had No Accomplices

No Evidence to Prove First Scientific Crime Had No Accomplices

Charles Dawson, who was an amateur antiquarian and solicitor archaeologist, asserted in December 1912 that a human-like skull that he had revealed in front of the entire world was the missing connection between ape evolving into human being. This has been perhaps the biggest scientific crime that has been committed in Britain. This is because technological advancements in 1950s disclosed that the present bones were not sufficiently ancient to act as the connection.

Thus, the fossil produced was a mere practical joke. It is still ambiguous as to who performed this fraud. It has been alleged that it could have been done by anyone, ranging from French priest and palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin to writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. However, Dawson has been the most likely suspect in the eyes of several archaeologists. However, not enough evidence has been found in this regards.

Also, it is being speculated that even if Dawson committed this felony, it cannot be said for sure that he had done it alone or he had any partners. However, subsequent to a century of his death, proofs have been found, which suggest that most probably Dawson has performed this fraud on his own and was single-handedly responsible for this hoax.

Dawson and palaeontologist Arthur Smith Woodward together made a revelation that they have found the new fossil hominin known as Eoanthropus dawsoni. Woodward was contacted by Dawson regarding the discovery of a new human fossil and at that time, Woodward was the keeper of palaeontology at the Museum of Natural History in London.

He penned that the new-found fossil will compete with the German fossil jaw belonging Homo heidelbergensis, who were the first species of human beings that lived during the colder era. After Charles Darwin published ‘Descent of Man’ in 1871, researchers have been seeking the missing connection between apes and human beings.

According to a report in The Guardian by Tim Radford, "Last man standing in the line-up of citizens under suspicion for the notorious Piltdown fraud – the faked discovery of fossil evidence of an early human species, which misled anthropologists for almost 40 years – is an amateur antiquarian and country solicitor called Charles Dawson."

The evidence was faked; what is now the Natural History Museum,which originally authenticated and displayed the find, admitted this in 1953. Somebody had matched a human braincase, some teeth and an orangutan jaw and passed them off as evidence of an authentic survivor from the dawn of humankind.

“Solving the Piltdown hoax is still important now,” the scientists write. “It stands as a cautionary tale to scientists not to see what they want to see, but to remain objective and subject even their own findings to the strongest scientific scrutiny.”

A report published in The Conversation informed, "It is arguably the greatest scientific crime ever committed in Britain. In December 1912, Charles Dawson, an amateur antiquarian and solicitor archaeologist, presented part of a human-like skull to the world which he claimed was the “missing link” between ape and human."

Scientists had become increasingly interested in finding the missing link between humans and apes ever since the publication of Charles Darwin’s “Descent of Man” in 1871. The discovery of Piltdown Man put Great Britain at the forefront of palaeoanthropology by demonstrating that early humans had big brains and apelike jaws. The publication generated great interest from scientists and the general public alike.

The material consisted of an ape-like jawbone containing two worn molar teeth and parts of a human-like braincase. These were fraudulently planted in a gravel deposit near the village of Piltdown, in Sussex, UK. Associated with these were primitive stone tools and fragmentary fossil mammals, all stained dark reddish-brown like the gravels, suggesting an early Pleistocene or Pliocene date (2.6m years or even older).