The Planned Planting of Piltdown: Who? Why?

Wilton Marion Krogman

in Washburn and McCown, Human Evolution: Biosocial Perspectives 1978

[239] For over 40 years the image of Piltdown confused our understanding of human evolution. Countless hours were wasted in descriptions and discussion of the "fossil. " Krogman summarizes these events from discovery to ultimate solution. He tells us of the individuals he knew personally, of their involvement in the history of this most infamous fabrication, and how the Piltdown forgery influenced the whole interpretation of human evolution. Today, with careful excavation methods, radiometric dating, and the existence of series of fossils, no single specimen could be so influential.

In 1972 Ronald Millar, a professional writer, published a book that he called The Piltdown Men. 1 The central character is, of course, Piltdown I, announced triumphantly on December 18, 1912, and devastatingly exposed as a hoax 41 years later.

In his book Millar ranges far afield in discussing and elaborating the climate of human paleontology up to 1912. He goes well beyond 1912 in his references to other human fossils, but such material is almost a non sequitur. The focus, as I see it, is why and how Piltdown I was initially accepted as a legitimate find somewhere along the line of hominid evolution.



Victorian-Edwardian times were steeped in the post-Darwinian controversies of creation versus

evolution; Cuvier's "catastrophism" was a rationalization of apparent successive geological epochs. In 1891-1892 Dubois uncovered the "ape-man" Pithecanthropus, already postulated several decades earlier as a possibility by Haeckel, who called for a pre-Neanderthal affenmensch. The confused state of affairs is evidenced by the fact that in 1896 Pithecanthropus was labelled anthropoid by five experts, human by seven. and halfway between ape and man by seven. At the turn of the century, Woodward–soon to be deeply involved in the discovery of Piltdown– made some predictions concerning the physical traits of early man, almost certainly influenced by the Pithecanthropus-Neanderthal sequential continuum.

There were other strutters on the stage of evolutionary time, some artefactual, others osteological. As early as 1797 Frere reported very early fabricated flints at Hoxne, in England. In 1846 Boucher de Perthes uncovered stone tools associated with the bones of extinct animals at Abbeville, in France. Neanderthal remains were found at Gibraltar in 1848, and at Dússeldorf Germany in 1856. In 1856 Lartet of France announced finds of Dryopithecus and Ramapithecus, placing them in the category now recognized as hominoid. In 1863 a jaw and flint tools were found at Moulin Quignon, in France, in strata said to be as old as those containing fossil bones of extinct animals. Later, it was revealed that the Moulin Quignon site was comparatively modern: the jaw was not old; moreover, the flints had been faked! In 1898 at Galley Hill, in England, skull fragments and a nearly complete skeleton were found, and were stated to represent very early ancestral hominid remains. The find had a curious history, for it was in the private museum of one Robert Elliot, and not until 1908 was it concluded that Galley Hill was similar to the neanderthaloids of Spy, Belgium. 2

I see no reason to go further with this sort of cataloging. Suffice it to say that by 1912 there was undeniable factual evidence of "fossil man," that is, early and primitively hominid types that to one degree or another attested to a progressive emergence of man from a basic anthropoid ancestry. The real problem, in 1912, was just how the bridge was crossed or to put it in simpler terms, what apelike traits plus manlike traits would combine at a given developmental or evolutionary stage.

There is another state of affairs to be considered in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of England. There was no real science of either archaeology or of human paleontology. These affairs were largely in the hands of amateur antiquarians and natural historians. There were many local societies given over to the unearthing and study of flints and bones, ranging all the way from the eoliths of Harrison to the cultural remains of Roman and [241] medieval times. The chairman or president of such a society was often a man of local prominence–lawyer, physician, curate, or squire, who was usually self-taught in the problems of excavation, documentation, and interpretation.

Such a man was Charles Dawson, discoverer of Piltdown. He was a barrister and a leading member of the Sussex Archaeological Society. There is no doubt but that he knew the Sussex area–in which Piltdown was found–quite well, indeed. There is considerable reason to believe that his interests and knowledge did not extend much beyond Sussex, that is, he seems to have been quite provincial in his total outlook.

In addition to Dawson, the principal players in the Piltdown drama were: Arthur Smith Woodward (later Sir Arthur), an ichthyologist concerned principally with fossil fishes; Arthur Keith (later Sir Arthur), anatomist and human paleontologist; Grafton Elliot Smith (later Sir Grafton), neuroanatomist and Egyptologist; Ray Lankester (later Sir Ray), a director of the British Museum; W. P. Pycraft, ornithologist of the British Museum and science writer for The Illustrated London News; and Father Teilhard de Chardin, geologist, paleontologist, and philosopher. As excavators, discoverers, and interpreters of the Piltdown remains, these men wrote the script and defined the roles and the scenes.

Let us now turn to the actual findspot at Piltdown. Prior to 1912 a laborer at the site (said to have been gathering gravels with which to repair or construct a stone walkway) reported finding several skull fragments. In 1911 Dawson found a larger fragment of the frontal, presumably related to the earlier finds. In 1912 Woodward joined Dawson, and more fragments were found in a deeper depression in undisturbed gravel; Dawson, alone, found the right half of a mandible, with symphyseal area and condyle broken away; Woodward, working in an area about one yard from the jaw, found a small fragment of an occipital bone. Also found at the site were two small pieces of a molar of an early Pleistocene elephant, a much-rolled cusp of a Mastodon molar, two teeth of a later Pleistocene hippopotamus, and two molars of a Pleistocene beaver. These dental elements encompassed an Early-Late Pleistocene range. On April 13, 1913, Father Teilhard found a canine tooth in an area previously worked over by Dawson and Woodward (who were present when the canine was found). Also found were two articulated nasal bones. 3 Oakley (1973) says that nothing more was ever found at the original site, although the gravels were searched for many years.

In 1915 Dawson sent a postcard to Woodward announcing the finding 4 of parts of a second Piltdown skull. Woodward reported this in 1917, about a year after Dawson's death. Found were skull fragments and a molar tooth. The skull bones, especially a right frontal fragment, were as thick as P I, and the molar was identical with one in the jawbone of P I. At the time, P II [242] seemed to put the clincher on P I. In 1914 a bone implement, 16" long, 4 in diameter, had been found under a hedge at the P I site. It had been fashioned from the femur of a large extinct elephant.

So much for the listing of parts and objects found. The real problem is what did they represent in terms of time-age, or antiquity, and in terms of evolutionary stage or their exact place in the ape to human progression. One fact is paramount: the way in which skull and jawbone had been broken left an almost incredible variability in reconstructive interpretation. In 1915 Miller wrote as follows: 'Deliberate malice could hardly have been more successful than the hazards of deposition in so breaking the fossils as to give free scope to individual judgment in fitting the parts together" (p. 1). One major circumstance emerged, namely, that the skull seemed at one evolutionary stage (human), and the mandible at another (anthropoid).

It is not the place here to go into the controversial details involved in deriving an entire cranial reconstruction from skull fragments with missing contact margins. For example, Keith reconstructed one cranial half and mirror-imaged the other half, assuming symmetry. Smith assailed this, claiming asymmetry, for as a neuroanatomist he followed the dictum of left cerebral dominance, with fuller development of the left side of the cranial vault. This sort of reasoning by each man gave considerable difference in the estimation of endocranial volume. The mandible also presented reconstructive and interpretative problems: (1) its symphyseal area was incomplete so that details of the chin development were open to inference; (2) the condyle was missing, so that details of the temporomandibular joint and the hinging of the jaw, with its pattern of chewing, could be only conjectured.

The big question is why men of undoubted ability were able to reconcile skull and jawbone in a single evolutionary form or stage. 5 The answer is found in the 1912 adherence to the ape-man concept, with its implication of a possibly differential disparity in evolutionary rate in parts or areas of the skeleton.. In substance, it did not really appear anachronistic that craniocerebral evolution proceeded at a pace faster than, for example, dento-mandibular evolution.

Indeed, as late as 1925 Hooton wrote a paper on the asymmetric character of human evolution. On a 1-6 ordination he assessed a number of nonmetric craniofacial and dental traits, from ultraanthropoid to ultrahuman. He rated the Piltdown skull 4-5 in the skull (inferior human/ typically human); and 3-4 in palate (subhuman, supraanthropoid/inferior human); and 2 in mandible and teeth (typically anthropoid). 6

It seems to me that this type of thinking regarding the uneven or asymmetric pace of evolution tended to quell doubt and inhibit challenge as to the human/anthropoid traits in P I. "This is the way evolution proceeds: at different rates within the craniofacial complex" appeared to be the ruling [243] doctrine. And if this doctrine were adhered to by men of authority and competence, who is to gainsay?

Time and technique catch up with one another. By 1950 two factors were operative: (1) new and more precise methods of dating fossil material; (2) a generation of men not only trained in newer methods, but also not afraid of challenging authority.

Criticism began to focus upon three main areas: (1) the antiquity or age of Piltdown; (2) the color or staining of bones and flints; and (3) the details of bone and tooth morphology, especially the latter.

In 1943 a Dr. Lewis, a researcher of the Imperial Chemical Industry, gave a lecture on the relationship between subsoil and health. In it he referred to the work of Owen Rees (c. 1850) on the fluorine (Fl) content of bones. In 1873 Carnot followed up Rees's work and gave the proportion of fluorapatite in bones as follows: modern = 0.058 percent; Pleistocene = 0.33 percent; Tertiary = 0.62 percent; Mesozoic = 0.91 percent; Paleozoic = 0.99 percent.

In 1949 Oakley pointed out that later Pleistocene fossil bones had less Fl than early Pleistocene. He gave a range of 0.1-0.5 percent for late Pleistocene, 1.9-3.1 percent for early. The Piltdown I skull, jawbone, and canine had very little Fl (< 0.1-0.4 percent). In 1955 Weiner gave P I skull = 0.1 percent, mandible = 0.3 percent; in P II skull = 0.1 percent, molar = 0.01 percent. Weiner also said that the N (nitrogen content) test was confirmatory. Finally, in 1973 Oakley gave Carbon 14 ages in P I as follows: skull fragments = 1330 A. D. (620 +/ - 100 BP Gr N– 2203); jawbone 1450 A.D. (500 + / - 100 BP Gr N– 2204).

The verdict is clear: P I (and P II) are modern as far as antiquity is concerned. "None of the [Piltdown] fragments can be considered fossil or in any way part of man's ancestry" (Oakley 1973:6).

The gravel at Piltdown and the bones and teeth of P I and P II, as well as the flint tools, had a reddish brown color, presumably due to oxidation. At first the color of the bones was explained by saying that Dawson had dipped them in dichromate of potash "to harden them." It has become obvious that bones, teeth, and flints had been intentionally stained to match the color of the gravels in which they were apparently deposited. the skull fragments were dipped in potassium dichromate; the jawbone color was due in part to Fe staining plus large traces of chromium: the canine had a dark coating attributed to iron oxide, which later proved to be Vandyke brown paint.

The skull fragments had a high content of gypsum (CaSO4. 2H20) that replaced much of the apatite (Ca5 (P04)3 OH). Oakley (1973) states, based on experimentation, that bones soaked in iron sulphate will have much of their apatite converted into gypsum. Up to 2 percent of chromium was found in the stains of the fossil teeth, on one animal bone, and on one flint, [244] in spite of the fact that the Piltdown gravels contained no comparable amount of chromium. "It seems as though the "hoaxer" used chromium compounds to assist the oxidation of the iron salts with which he was staining specimens to match the reddish-brown gravel of Piltdown" (Oakley 1973:4).7

It may be apropos at this point to discuss the bone implement, as well as other fossil animal bones. The bone implement was pointed at one end and rounded at the other by a series of cleanly cut facets. Careful study demonstrated that the facets were not cut by a flint tool, but were the result of the action of a steel knife on fossilized bone.

The fossil material was not of Piltdown provenience. Millar (1972) says that an elephant molar (E. planifrons) came from Tunisia, and that a hippo tooth came from Malta or Sicily. Weiner specified that the E. planifrons molar was traced to Ichkeul, in Tunisia near Bizerte. Of 18 fossil specimens, says Weiner, 10 were fake, eight probably fake.

Piltdown II was very clumsily contrived, apart from the fact that its find spot was never determined. The right frontal fragment belonged to P I; the frontal and occipital fragments were also artificially stained, and the two pieces did not even belong to the same skull. The molar was obviously a leftover of the P I mandible; the fragments were associated with a Red Crag rhino tooth, an utterly impossible association. As confirmation of P I, the P II material was an utter flop!

The canine tooth found in 1913 by Father Teilhard was smaller than that of an ape, but larger than that of a man. It was, in truth, just about the size that Woodward, a decade or so earlier, had predicted. It was greatly worn, deep into the pulp cavity. A short while after it was found, it was X-rayed by a dentist named Lyne. He said at once that it was an immature tooth–perhaps newly erupted–for there was no apical closure. Its amount of wear was completely at odds with its evident immaturity. Of the mandibular teeth as a whole Keith said only that the roots were human in type.

The right jawbone, carefully broken in the midline and in the condylar area, artfully removes details of chin and temporomandibular structuring; one cannot, from the jawbone, determine whether the bite was up-and-down or rotatory or grinding. The chewing surfaces of the teeth are worn flat, as one might expect in the tough, gritty diet of an early or primitive hominid. The flatness was achieved by artificial abrasion, that is, by grinding. This is especially true for the P I canine and the P I, II molars.

The jawbone has now been identified as that of a young female orangutan. I studied the jawbone

at the Royal College of Surgeons, London, in 1931, and concluded it was that of a chimpanzee. I made this decision because the wear suggested that rounded or bunodont cusps had been worn down. I did not suspect orangutan, for the crenulated molar cusp pattern of [245] the occlusal surface of the orangutan molar was not in evidence; and no wonder, for all such crenulations had been carefully removed by abrasion to give a false human wear-pattern.

And so we come to the end of the reviewing of a very carefully and artfully conceived and achieved hoax. As I review the unfolding of the details of the fakery I feel that the perpetrator made only one major mistake: that is, the creation of a second Piltdown. It was done originally, perhaps to shore up whatever doubts P I may have raised. To have two sets of skeletal remains of an early Englishman was to say, in effect, lightning did strike twice! The involvement of P II with bones and teeth of P I, and with bone fragments of two different skulls, did not gild the lily–it took the bloom off entirely. In essence, what at first seemed a good thing was pushed too far, pushed over the brink of credulity.

With all the evidence of mischievous and intentional chicanery before us, it is logical that we turn to our first question: Who? We have noted the principals in this affair, those who were, in one way or another, directly involved. There is one obvious man to point to first, Charles Dawson. The whole thing was on his own home grounds, so to speak. If opportunity be a prime factor, then it is Dawson to whom we must look. He was a known and established antiquarian who collected flints and other early artefacts, as well as historic material (Romano-British, early Norman times). Also, he had a known knowledge of the use of various chemicals to harden flints or other more friable artefacts. Obviousness, however, can be a slender reed of support, and so, for the moment, let us pass on to the others.

Sir Arthur Smith Woodward was the man to whom Dawson most often turned. It is certain that he spent short periods of time at Piltdown, digging and sorting through the gravel deposits from whence the bones and teeth assertedly came. But it seems that he came down to Sussex only upon call by Dawson. None of the contemporary reports or articles on Piltdown suggests his presence on the scene on an a priori basis, that is, for any protracted period prior to a dig or before a new find was announced. In other words, opportunity for Woodward to salt the area was negligible. Apart from this sort of mechanics of cheating, it must be recorded that Woodward's record of scientific probity and professional ability was of the highest order

Father Teilhard de Chardin found the canine tooth on August 30, 1913 Because of his status as a paleontologist-geologist, he was, we are told invited by Dawson to participate in looking through the Piltdown gravels On that day Dawson and Woodward were also present, digging and sifting

Suddenly, In an area of gravel known to have been recently gone over, the canine was found. It is recorded that the two men (Dawson and Woodward) were well-nigh incredulous: the tooth seemingly had come from nowhere. Father Teilhard was also apparently involved in the matter of the tooth of E. planifrons, traced to Ichkeul in Tunisia. It became known that he had been [246] to Ichkeul shortly before coming to the Piltdown site. Because of this combination of circumstances, there were those who pointed the finger of suspicion at Father Teilhard. This was the first find of E. planifrons ever made in England; not until 1920 was another such find made.

In later years de Chardin did not refer to Piltdown in his discussion of fossil man. In a 1952 article in a publication of the N.Y. Academy of Sciences, he shows Eo. as middle Pleistocene in an evolutionary diagram. 8 He goes no further than this notation. One may conjecture as to the reason for this failure to enlarge upon Piltdown and his role in the discovery. Perhaps residual doubts as to authenticity had crystallized into a feeling that it was better to let sleeping dogs lie than to come forth with a denunciation that might weaken the scientific validity of Darwinism and the emergence of man from an ancestral form. I am inclined to this interpretation, for I later met Father Teilhard, although l did not get to know him well. As I heard him speak and as I read his later books, I gained an impression of a spiritual devotion to evolutionary concepts and a literally universal factor (design) in the unfolding of the entire cosmos. I simply cannot see this man as the perpetrator of a fraud.

It was my privilege to study with Sir Arthur Keith as a National Research Council Fellow, 1930-1931, at the Royal College of Surgeons, London. We discussed problems involved in the reconstruction of the Piltdown skull and my conclusion that the mandible did not belong to the skull and that it was chimpanzoid. As far as I know, Sir Arthur did not visit the Piltdown findspot. He never mentioned doing so to me and I know of no reference by either Dawson or Woodward that he had done so. Sir Arthur was a comparative morphologist (infrahuman primates and man) to whom finds were referred for an opinion. He was in principle and in fact a stay-at-home museum man rather than a field man. If in the early days he was taken in by the Piltdown bones and teeth, it was in part due to the then-believed acceptance of disparate rates of evolution, plus confidence in, and loyalty to, his colleagues, notably Woodward.

While l was studying with Sir Arthur I had the opportunity to meet Sir Grafton Elliot Smith, in 1931. He had just returned from Peking (Choukoutien) where Sinanthropus crania were being unearthed. He had made some endocranial casts of the Sinanthropus brain, a subject in which I was interested. As a new young Ph. D. in physical anthropology, I wanted to learn all I could about endocasting and the light it could throw upon cerebral evolution and development. I had studied neuroanatomy at Chicago with C. Judson Herrick and had read many of Sir Grafton's publications in this field. l did not talk with him about Piltdown; frankly, I shied away from possible involvement in the Keith-Smith controversy over the reconstruction of the Piltdown skull, for I had heard that Smith could be rough-tongued.

[247] In my study with Sir Arthur I was more interested in modern racial craniology than I was in human paleontology. Yet since Keith's books on the subject had figured prominently in my graduate studies, I often discussed this or that fossil skull or other bone with him. As we discussed Piltdown he always referred to differences of opinion between him and Sir Grafton quite mildly and always recognized one's right to disagree. I formed the very definite opinion that Sir Grafton, like Keith himself, had a more academic professional stake in Piltdown rather than a more personal interest with reference to the finding itself and the circumstances thereof. At no time did Sir Arthur mention that Sir Grafton had visited the findspot much less search the gravels as Dawson, Woodward, and de Chardin had done

W. J. Pycraft was Curator of Anthropology under Sir Arthur Smith Woodward. I met him in 1931 at the Kensington Branch of the British Museum, when he made it possible for me to see the skull of Rhodesian Man. 9 Pycraft was an ornithologist, but at Woodward's request he studied the Piltdown jaw and teeth. He wrote to Gerrit Miller that they were human, seen grossly and radiographically, and were not anthropoid. There is no record that I know of that suggests active field (findspot) participation. Apparently he entered the Piltdown picture only upon request of his chief, Woodward.

Sir Ray Lankester, though he early doubted that the jawbone belonged with the skull, did have an interest in the Piltdown find He was champion of eoliths or dawn-stones, claimed to be the very earliest intentionally but crudely fashioned flint tools. He saw in Piltdown the maker of rostrocarinate flints (a type of eolith). Moreover, he scouted the possibility that Piltdown might authenticate Ipswich man, recently found by J. Reid Moir, a foremost protagonist of the eolith theory. Whether Sir Ray had any real contact with the Piltdown site I cannot ascertain.

As the previous few pages are scanned in reference to the question of Who? I suggest a box score a follows:

No Possibly

Woodward Dawson

de Chardin Smith




I venture this dichromization for two reasons: (1) a rather generally accepted view that Dawson is

a candidate because of his on-the-grounds relationship to all circumstances of the find; and (2) the fact that Millar specifically regards Smith as having the necessary anatomical knowledge [248] and, perhaps, the selfish motivation to use Piltdown for personal advancement.

What I propose to do here is to give the pros and cons for each man and then to weigh them as objectively as I can. I shall start with Dawson.

Evidence for Dawson

1. The entire hoax was very complicated, for it seems to have demanded considerable sophistication in skeletal morphology, odontology, paleontology, and chemistry. The entire craniodental ensemble had to be rendered a reasonably acceptable whole, not only within itself but also with reference to a type-stage of evolution. Did Dawson possess the knowledge and the insight to plan all this?

2. The very obviousness of Dawson as a perpetrator tends to mitigate against his being so. Were he shrewd enough to plan the whole thing, he must have known he would be a prime suspect.

3. Hence, on both technical and logical grounds, a defense of Dawson may be raised. In Millar's words he simply "does not fill the bill."

Evidence against Dawson

1. Dawson had an earlier record of deliberate deceit. His fellow members of the Sussex Archaeological Society had accused him of faking flint implement types. A prickspur he claimed to be Norman was not so recognized by the British Museum. A Roman cast-iron statuette found in a slag heap at a Roman ironworking site at Beaufort, near Hastings, was also suspect. On this point Downes of the University of Birmingham wrote: "We must wait for a complete review of the evidence of Mr. Dawson's activities, ranging from his honest and talented work to his undoubted deceptions, before passing any judgment on him or on such debatable specimens."

2. Sussex was Dawson's own provenience. Of all persons involved, he had the best knowledge and the least restricted opportunity to plant or to salt the Piltdown gravels with faked bones, teeth, and flints.

3. He was known to use chemicals (ferric and chromate) ostensibly to harden or toughen various specimens of bone and flint. By observation alone, various degrees of seining could be noted, learned, and repeated.

4. Dawson's History of Hastings Castle was denounced as a plagiarism of an earlier manuscript by William Herbert. It is true that Dawson acknowledged his indebtedness to Herbert's manuscript in a foreword, but it was still felt that this was not enough to excuse very extensive verbatim copying. A slight restatement here and amplification there does not constitute claim to original work.

5. He made absolutely no data available on the circumstance or site of the finding of P II. All that is known is that it was from a field about two miles from the site of P I.

[249] 6. In 1917, after Dawson's death, the British Museum received from Mrs. Dawson fragments from what was labelled the Barcombe Mills skull. The assumption is that Dawson had found them, though he did not so report. The bones were stained the same color as were those of P I and P II. They were subsequently revealed as belonging to three modern individuals.

Evidence for Smith

1. The almost unbelievable human bone and tooth assemblage of P II and the presence of an impossibly associated rhino tooth are not the sort of random blunders that a trained anatomist would perpetrate. In his 1904 report on Nubian skeletal material, Smith demonstrated a superb knowledge of osteology. It is neither reasonable nor logical to tag him as a hoaxer.

2. Smith's neurological studies, which were not only comparative hut phylogenetic as well (via endocasts of fossil Vertebrate crania), would not have resulted in a melange of unrelated human cranial fragments or out-of-place (timewise) fossil remains, including teeth.

3. Dawson was a local barrister, Smith already an admitted authority in the total field of neuroanatomy. He had far more to lose than did Dawson were he to be revealed as scientifically unethical and dishonest. Of the two, Smith would perceive the more readily that the P I and especially the P II assemblages were so clumsily contrived as to literally demand disclosure. As fate would have it, the whole hoax was perpetrated in the lifetimes of both Dawson and Smith. The thought occurs to me that one of the two lived in deadly fear for some years.

Evidence against Smith

1. Smith was an Australian. At the time of the Piltdown discovery he had a post in Cairo that was not as prestigious as one in England. It has been suggested that a fossil find such as Piltdown might enhance his status and so lead to advancement to a post in England.

2. Smith was an ardent advocate of cultural diffusion. Indeed, he was a participant in the idea of a heliolithic wave of civilization from Egypt, wherever sun worship was found, wherever pyramids or certain other megalithic monuments were found, there was evidence that Egypt was a focal diffusion point. Might not the discovery of early man in England–after many other such discoveries on the Continent or even in Indonesia–be confirmatory evidence of an early, basic hominid centrifugal migration?

3. Did Smith try to put one over when he stated that a human skull and a simian jaw were not incongruous if found in the same individual? Here I shall take up the cudgel for Smith: (1) he but affirmed the current belief (1912) in the possibility of disparate rates of evolution; (2) in his earlier papers on evolution he had–and this is to be expected of a neuroanatomist–held that cerebral evolution [250] took precedence over even the facial skeleton, not to mention the infracranial skeleton. He reasoned that cerebral development came before the erect posture and the freeing of forelimbs to become toolmakers. 10

4. Smith was said to be arrogant (Millar), and it might be that he wanted, via hoaxing, to discredit the British Museum pundits. I found Smith forthright and outspoken and have known other scientists who were the same. This, however, is no qualification for dishonorable behavior.

5. Millar cites Smith's 1937 obituary as saying he had a "childlike simplicity of approach to scientific trust." I cannot reconcile arrogance and childlike simplicity!

6. It is felt by Millar that Smith's "complete failure to assist Woodward (in the reconstruction of the Piltdown skull) is in my opinion highly incriminatory." Maybe he wasn't asked to.

7. In 1915 the Talgai skull was found in Australia. It is alleged that Smith told Dawson that it was found at Pilton (which Millar says does not exist). Hence, Talgai should be identified by a findspot of Darlington Downs, to avoid confusion between Pilton and Piltdown. I mentioned this to Raymond Dart recently, and he doubts the whole thing.

8. The C14 age of P I dates to medieval times. Millar feels that Smith, rather than Dawson, would have readier access to skulls of some 500 years ago.

Here I end Who? and turn to Why?

Obviously the vagaries of human motivation, human drive, human ambitions, and human sense of right and wrong are too diverse, too complexly interrelated, to say of a given man, "he's honest, " or of another, "he's dishonest. "

One cannot particularize; one can only generalize.

1. A chauvinistic national pride may have been a major factor: for England and St. George. Perhaps the hoaxer thought that "there'll always be an England" was not enough, and added, "there always was an Englishman." Also, up to 1912 England had no entry in the Early Man Sweepstakes, so, up Piltdown!

2. Personal recognition and fame would certainly come to the discoverer of Piltdown as he vaulted into public and scientific prominence; in those days it might bring him an F.R.S., a knighthood with a royal audience, and a niche in English history.

3. Or perhaps mere professional advancement rather than glory could have been an impelling force, a risky rung on the ladder of achievement.

4. Was revenge a motive, to pay back a real or fancied slight? Was the planning and planting of Piltdown (both I and II) conceived in a cunning, paranoiac mind in order to vaunt self over associates and colleagues?

5. Then, of course, there is always a practical joker in the crowd. Perhaps the hoaxer at first figured to be uncovered, then to excuse himself with an all-in-fun bravado. But it was not uncovered and it was soon out of hand. A bolstering touch here, another there, and then the hoaxer piled the Pelion of P II on the Ossa of P I. Deception fed, cannibalistically, upon itself.

[251] If I now evaluate for and against arguments, I must conclude that the evidence against

Dawson is stronger than that against Smith. This view is strengthened as each man is viewed as a person and as a professional, lawyer and trained scientist, respectively. Dawson, the provincial, was relatively supreme on the Piltdown homeground. Smith was the more cosmopolitan outsider who functioned mainly as interpreter of the find. In the early part of this century Dawson lived in a tight little small-town world–a world in which personal approval or public rejection was of paramount importance. Dawson had had his share of criticism and doubt. It could well be that he decided to call the tune to which his fellow Sussex archaeologists must dance, and for 40 years the world of human paleontology danced with them!



1. St. Martin's Press, New York, 264 pp., 15 plates, six diagrams, two tables. I previously reviewed the book in the Bulletin of the N. Y. Academy of Medicine, 19(11): 1011-1016, Nov. 1973. The present article is an amplification of that review, with the kind permission of Saul Jarcho, M. D., Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin.

2. In 1949 Oakley found Galley Hill to be recent and "modern," based on fluorine dating; skull = 0.3%, mandible = 0.4%, right tibia= 0.4%, a limb bone fragment = 0.4%, left femur = 0.2%.

3. Millar (p. 133) writes thusly: "Two nasal (turbinal) bones were found by Dawson.... " They were not turbinal bones, which are much too fragile to have survived a water-borne deposit. They were the right and left nasal bones of the bony nasal skeleton. Keith thought these nasal bones were australoid-tasmanoid, i.e. short and broad.

4. Oakley (1973) said that later it proved impossible to identify the field for further research.

5. Even though Gerrit Miller (1915) ascribed the jaw to a new species of chimpanzee: (Pan vetus)

6. More specifically, Hooton gave brain-case 4.31, face 2.30, (total 3.63, S.D. 1.17).

7. Weiner (1955) suggests also that ferric ammonium sulphate (iron alum) was used/ as a staining agent.

8. The Eo. is for Eoanthropus dawsoni, the scientific term given to Piltdown. I am indebted to Gabriel Lasker of Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.) for calling this reference to my attention.

9. The pelvic bone of Rhodesian man was a sore subject with Pycraft. In a completely incorrect manner he reoriented the acetabulum (hip socket) in order to produce flexion at the hip. He dubbed the result Homo cyphanthropus, or stooping man. Needless to say, his reconstruction was vigorously criticized.

10. We now know that this is not so. The australopithecines achieved erect posture and freed the forelimbs before the brain developed its full human specialization.


Hooton, E. A. 1925 The asymmetrical character of human evolution. Am. J. Phys. Anrhropol. 8(2):


Keith, Sir Arthur 1929 The Antiquity of Man. Vol. ll, pp. 486 ff. London: Williams and Norgate.

Millar, Ronald 1972 The Piltdown Man. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Miller, G. S., Jr. 1915 The jaw of the Piltdown man. Smithson. Misc. Coll. 65(12):1-31.

1918 The Piltdown jaw. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 1(1):25 - 52.

Montagu, M. F. A. 1951 The Barcombe Mills cranial remains. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. N.S.


Oakley, K. P. 1950 The Fluorine-Dating Method. Yearbook Phys. Anthropol., 1949, pp. 44-52.

1973 The Piltdown man hoax. Paleontology Leaflet #2. London: British Museum

(Natural History).

Oakley, K. P. and C. P. Groves 1970 Piltdown man: the realization of fraudulence. Science,

Aug. 21, p. 789.

Smith, Sir Grafton 1907 Asymmetry of brain and skull. J. Anat. Physiol. 41:236 - 247.

1927 Essays on the Evolution of Man. Second ed. London: Oxford University Press.

1929 Migrations of Early Culture (Second ed. ). U. Manchester Ethnol. Series # 1.

Manchester: University Press.

Smith, Sir Grafton and F. Wood Jones 1910 The Archaeological Survey of Nubia 1907/08.

Vol. 11, Report on the Human Remains. Cairo, Egypt.

Weiner, J. S. 1955 The Piltdown Forgery. London: Oxford University Press.