Making The Piltdown Man


Making the Piltdown Man

God-or Gorilla

How the Monkey Theory of Evolution Exposes Its Own Methods, Refutes Its Own Principles, Denies Its Own Inferences, Disproves Its Own Case 1922

Alfred Watterson McCann



Chapter 1

Making the Piltdown Man - Unmaking the Piltdown Man - "Convincing and irrefutable" - Starting all over - The ape in the picture - Materializing a phantom.


In four glass cases in the Hall of the Age of Man, American Museum of Natural History, New York City, Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn exhibits "evidence" of man's ape-origin. In case No. 2 he has mounted a bust of the Piltdown man conceived and executed by Professor J. H. MacGregor. The bust is described as a "restoration," a "missing link," a sort of "side branch of the human family which has left no descendants at all."

As presented to the uninitiated, the Piltdown Man is half-ape, half-human. This half-and-half mixture is designed to impress the high school students and their teachers, visiting the Museum in ever increasing numbers, with the conclusion that a creature whose skull-cap is human but whose jaw is the jaw of an ape must, of course, be looked upon as "man half way along his journey from the simian to the human stage."

The Piltdown man is thus an instance of the "evolution" of man from monkey; and instance of "the forming of the human species" an instance of "descent."

[2] Professor Vernon Kellogg of Leland Stanford University reflects the consensus of modern scientific belief in all instances in which the phrase Natural Selection is used in a specific sense. Examining the Piltdown man we are stunned when, reading his (Kellogg's) "Darwinism Today," 1908, p. 18, we find these words: "Speaking by and large we only tell the general truth when we declare that no indubitable cases of species forming or transforming, that is, of descent, have been observed; and that no recognized cases of natural selection really selecting have been observed.

"I hasten to repeat the names of the Ancon sheep, the Paraguay cattle, the Porte Santo rabbit, the Artemias of Schmankewitch, and the De Vriesian evening primrose to show that I know my list of classic possible exceptions to this denial of observed species­forming, and to refer to Weldon's broad and narrow fronted crabs as a case of what may be an observation of selection at work. But such a list, even if it could be extended to a score, or to a hundred, of cases, is ludicrous as objective proof of that descent and selection, under whose domination the forming of millions of species is supposed to have occurred."

After a discussion of "the distinctly ponderable character of the anti-Darwinian ranks," he concludes (p. 29) with the following astonishing quotation: "For my part it seems better to go back to the old and safe Ignoramus standpoint."


Mokey Sitting

Courtesy Zoological Society. Photograph by Edwin R. Sanborn.

Another view of chimpanzee. Note thumb on "foot" where big toe ought to be, and stump of thumb on hand where a real thumb would be useful.


This modern scientific observation, surprising at it may seem to those who persist in loosely characterizing themselves as Darwinians, is marked by extreme candor. Professor Kellogg is not unconscious of the fact that there appears to be considerable evidence that some kind of selection is constantly going on in nature, and that this process in some manner contrib[3]utes to the preservation of differentiations and variations. He is not ignorant of the phenomena with which bacteriologists are familiar. For this reason we are compelled to take another look at the Piltdown man in order to arrive at an explanation of the motive behind his extraordinary appearance in the Hall of the Age of Man. Regardless of the vagueness and the complications, to say nothing of the contradictions and the biological stumbling blocks in their path, the "monkey evolutionists" are still tireless in their effort to support the ape­man theory. Driven from anchorage to anchorage they are thus compelled to take a solemn stand on what they call the evidence of palæontology.

Seemingly it is taken for granted that the disgraceful history of the Piltdown man, which we are about to review briefly, has been so far forgotten as to make it safe to present his "restoration" to this generation as a gentleman of quality rather than as the discredited hoax he has been shown to be. Boldness is characteristic of the champions of any theory that appears to hold captive the public mind. Consequently the prominence given to the Piltdown man can be explained only on the assumption that the public mind appears to want this sort of thing and will have it without question despite the fact that it died and was buried before the outbreak of the World War, in which conflict, as we shall see, it was deeply involved. The depth of this involvement is as startling as it is appalling. The evidence, to be disclosed later, is as irrefutable as it is horrible; as incredible as irrefutable.

In propping up the ape-jaw and human-cranium of the "reconstructed" Piltdown man the opinions of various scientific authorities are set forth with such flourishes as to insinuate the impression that the scientists are singularly agreed among themselves in the [4] matter of Mr. Piltdown's affairs and their significance.

Neither in the public exhibition of this "missing link," nor in the public exhibition of any of the other "missing links," are the school children or their teachers informed that all along the line, leading to the ingeniously fabricated "finality" before them, are sharp and emphatic contradictions sponsored by distinguished scientists. They are kept in ignorance of the fact that these scientists have not only exposed the distortions, the mutilations and the gross inventions with which some of their colleagues have sought to stretch vehement and hectic opinions from the nebula of unsupported theory to the crystals of established fact, but have also announced that there is no warrant at all for the weird interpretations so painfully elaborated on the Piltdown remains.

The simple facts of the "discovery" of the Piltdown man are these: Walking along a farm road close to Piltdown Common, Fletching (Sussex), Mr. Charles Dawson "noticed that the road had been mended with some peculiar brown flints not usual in the district."

On inquiry he was "astonished" to learn that they had been dug from a gravel bed on the farm. Dawson vaguely fixes the time of his Sherlock Holmes-like observation and the "astonishment" that followed as "several years ago." Considering the date of his revelation (December 18, 1912), it would appear that the "discovery" was made some time in 1909 or 1910, when the faculties of observation, attributed by Sir A. Conan Doyle to the extraordinary detective whose powers of deduction have solved so many baffling mysteries, were still stirring the imagination of romancers the world over.

At any rate, "shortly afterwards" Mr. Charles Dawson visited the place and found two laborers digging gravel. He asked them if they had found any [5] bones or other fossils. They had not done so. He urged them to preserve anything they might find in the future.

Upon one of his "subsequent" visits a laborer handed him a small portion of unusually thick human parietal bone that looked as if it might be 300,000 years old. Note the use of the word "human." Never mind the age. Mr. Dawson immediately made a search but could find nothing more.

It was not until "some years later," in the autumn of 1911, on another visit to the spot, that he picked up another and larger piece of bone belonging to the frontal region of a skull, including a portion of the ridge extending over the left eyebrow.

Mr. Dawson took the bones to Dr. A. Smith Woodward of the British Museum. There was much talk. Then several laborers were employed to make a systematic search among the spoils heaps and gravel. Every particle of the gravel in the pit was sifted. The total results consisted of a piece of a jaw bone, another small piece of occipital bone from the skull, and a canine tooth. With these fragments, which a juggler could conceal in the palm of one hand, the scientists "reconstructed" the Piltdown man, and at once proclaimed it to be a new genus which they proceeded to call Eoanthropus or "Dawn Man," naming the species "Dawsoni" in honor of the discoverer.

To make the thing as sensational as possible it was necessary to reconstruct very closely along ape lines, for the nearer the "reconstruction" could be pushed toward the brute, the more convincing would it be as "scientific evidence" in support of the "missing link" theory.

It wouldn't do to let the brain-pan of the Piltdown man hold too much brain matter. An ape skull on the one hand with a c.c. capacity of 600 and a modern [6] human skull on the other hand with a c.c. capacity of 1500 would suggest that a half­ape and a half­man should have a c.c. capacity of about 1050, "which figure would show a tremendous advance along evolutionary lines from the ape and a certain half­way approach toward modern man."

What could be more eloquent as a link-a "missing link"?

Dr. A. Smith Woodward and Mr. Charles Dawson made their calculations and gave to their Piltdown man a brain capacity very accurately and very precisely fixed at 1070 c.c. It suited all the requirements exactly.



In August, 1913, the British Association for the Ad-vancement of Science discussed the Piltdown frag-ments which by this time included two molar teeth and two nasal bones. Then came the exposure of Profes-sor Arthur Keith, curator of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London. Professor Keith dem-onstrated that the brain capacity of the Piltdown skull was nearer 1500 c.c. than 1070 c.c.

New "reconstructions," based on this exposure, by Professor McGregor and Professor Woodward have resulted in the admission, as reported by Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, curator of the Division of Physical Anthro-pology, United States National Museum, Washington, D. C., that the capacity of Mr. Piltdown's cranium is now estimated at approximately 1300 c.c. It began to appear that the "human" touch, so deftly applied when the thing was first described, was going to re-act with unexpected embarrassment. The figures 1300 were not as close to 600 as might be desired. They [7] were entirely too far apart for the comfort of a "half-man, half-ape. "

The original reconstructors not only wanted a near-ape skull which has now, alas, vanished in their hands, but they also wanted an ape-like face and jaw. So they put their solitary canine tooth on the right side of the lower jaw at an angle suggestive of the ape. This also suited the requirements exactly.

But along came Professor W. K. Gregory and Professor G. S. Miller, writing respectively in the Am. Mus. Journ., vol. 14, 1914, pp. 189-200, and Smithsonian Misc. Coll., vol. 65, No. 12, Nov. 1915, in which they pointed out the necessity of further important modifications of the "reconstruction" based on the fact that the tooth described and used as the right lower canine was no lower tooth of any kind at all, and no right tooth either, but a left tooth and an upper tooth at that!

The scientists who couldn't properly fix the position of the only canine tooth in their possession were nevertheless very definite in fixing the stratified gravel of the Piltdown fragments as "in the main composed of Pliocene drift, probably reconstructed in the Pleistocene epoch." They wanted the Pliocene for purposes of greater antiquity. But, along came Professor W. Boyd Dawkins showing that the time could not be earlier than Pleistocene, because of the presence in the Piltdown deposits of an antler of red deer absolutely unknown in the Pliocene of Europe but abundant in the Pleistocene and later periods. This was too bad entirely, for it necessitated another reconstruction in which several hundred thousand years had to be knocked off the alleged age of Mr. Piltdown.

Not only have the scientists themselves objected to the arbitrary, dogmatic and wholly unwarranted reconstruction of the Piltdown man on the ground that [8] the teeth do not belong at all to the same skull, but that the jaw itself could not in any way be associated with the skull.

Using the words of Professor Ales Hrdlicka from the Smithsonian report for 1913, pp. 491-552, republished by the Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1916, we hobble into a new pit of confusion and chaos. He says: "The most important development in the study of the Piltdown remains is the recent well documented objection by Professor Gerrit S. Miller of the United States National Museum to the classing together of the lower jaw and the canine with the cranium. According to Miller, who had ample anthropoid as well as human material for comparison, the jaw and tooth belong to a fossil chimpanzee."

This is a heart-breaking admission coming, as it does, from a scientist as eminent as Miller, and even more heart-breaking is the admission made by Hrdlicka himself, when he urges that none of the conclusions regarding the Piltdown man should be accepted, and that all hypotheses relating to it must be regarded as more or less premature.

Here we have a skull with a capacity, now admitted by Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn himself, of 1300 c.c. well above the capacity of many white normal human skulls of today, and far above that of the average Australian. The missing-link was skidding clumsily.

No wonder the great German anatomist, G. Schwalbe, so frequently quoted by Professor Osborn, had to abandon the "missing link" opinion so picturesquely and noisily voiced as a scientific fact when he declared that "the proper restoration of the Piltdown fragments would make them belong not to any preceding stage of man, but to a well developed, good sized Homo sapiens, the true man of today." Why are such facts [9] as these withheld from the young student and from his teacher if truth is really an objective?

Before the transfer of the misused canine from the lower jaw, where it had no business, to the upper jaw, where it belonged, the scientists laid special emphasis on that all-important canine tooth. It justified them in asserting that "the skull represented an entirely new type of man in the making" and upon this plan of wholly gratuitous invention they established their ape-like jaw and ape-like face crowned with a human skull. Moreover, they were dealing with the mandible of a chimpanzee which, according to the evidence, never lived in the British Isles in any age, although when one was wanted, to fit a human skull, it was not difficult to find it in an English gravel bed!



The Piltdown remains disclose the ease with which "missing links" between apes and men can be fabricated by resort to wide stretches of imagination in support of pre-conceived opinions. The materialistic evolutionists, who have misrepresented the Piltdown man and all that they have sought to make it signify, are careful not to refer to the English authorities in the biological sciences who discussed all the Piltdown remains upon the first report of their discovery to the Geological Society of London, December, 1912. They avoid all mention of the fact that even at that early date the English authorities refused to accept the cranium and jaw as belonging to the same individual.

Sir Ray Lankester, not mentioned at all in the bibliography of the 1921, third edition, of Professor Osborn's "Men of the Old Stone Age," although one of the most distinguished of English scientists, emphatically denied the claim of Mr. Dawson and Dr. A. Smith [10] Woodward on the ground that the jaw and the skull had never belonged to the same creature.

Professor David Waterston of the University of London, Kings College, assisted in the exposure of the extraordinary claims made for the Dawn Man by confirming the analysis of Sir Ray Lankester on the ground that "the mandible was obviously that of a chimpanzee, while the fragments of the skull were human in all their characters."

Eleven months later Professor Waterston published a scientific paper (Nature, November 13, 1913, p. 319), in which he observed that "to refer the jaw bone and the cranium of the Piltdown remains to the same individual would be exactly equivalent to articulating a chimpanzee foot with the bones of a human thigh and leg.

"The outlines of the Piltdown jaw are identical with those of a chimpanzee jaw. The molar teeth (of the jaw) are identical with the ape form. The cranial fragments on the other hand are in practically all their details essentially human."

Since June 16, 1921, Professor W. D. Matthew of the American Museum of Natural History has been desirous of "heading off any bad influence that the writer's articles (calling attention to these exposures) may have." January 21, 1916, Professor Matthew declared in a scientific paper published in Science, that Professor Gerrit S. Miller's report as to the absolute identity of the Piltdown jaw as the jaw of a chimpanzee was "convincing and irrefutable," while Professor George Grant MacCurdy of Yale University, writing in Science, February 18, 1916, p. 228-231, spoke of the humiliating Piltdown exposure in broad terms, referring to the thing as a creature "robbed of a muzzle that ill became him."

Why was not one of the 937,000 persons who, ac[11]cording to its own report visited the American Museum of Natural History in 1920, given any hint of the information thus revealed? If truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the chaste objective of science, how are the professors of the American Museum to explain the wholly misleading compound of indirection, innuendo and suppression now posing in the Hall of the Age of Man as a "scientific fact"?

Why do the Piltdown disciples ignore Professor George Grant MacCurdy of the Archæological Department of Yale University? Writing in Science, February 18, 1916, Professor MacCurdy completely demolished the Piltdown hoax in a few well-chosen phrases.

He said: "Regarding the Piltdown specimens we have at last reached a position that is tenable. The cranium is human, as was recognized by all in the beginning. On the other hand, the mandible and the canine tooth are those of a fossil chimpanzee. This means that in place of Eoanthropus Dawsoni (the Piltdown missing link) we have two individuals belonging to different genera." Instead of an incipient Dawn Man we have a comic cartoon under the caption, "Good night, Mr. Dawson."



The writer suffers quite as much amazement as that reported by Mr. Dawson, to discover the 1921 illustrations of the Piltdown man as they continue, unashamed, to adorn pages 142, 143 and 145 of Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn's latest contribution to science.

Says Osborn, ("Men of the Old Stone Age"): "Elliott Smith concluded that members of the Piltdown race might well have been the direct ancestors of the existing species of man, thus affording a direct [12] link with undiscovered Tertiary apes; whereas the more recent fossil men of the Neanderthal type, with prominent brow ridges resembling those of the existing apes, may have belonged to a degenerate race which later became extinct.

"According to this view Eoanthropus (the Piltdown man) represents a persistent and very slightly modified descendant of the type of Tertiary man which was the common ancestor of a branch giving rise to Homo sapiens (existing species of men), on the one hand and of another branch giving rise to Homo neanderthalensis (half-ape, half-man) on the other.

"Another theory," continues Osborn, "as to the relationships of Eoanthropus is that of Marcelin Boule, who is inclined to regard the jaws of the Piltdown and Heidelberg races as of similar geologic age but of dissimilar racial type. If the skull and jaw of Piltdown belong to the same individual" (note the persistence of that if, if, if, even though no sense of shame accompanies it) "and if the mandibles of the Heidelberg and Piltdown men are of the same type, this discovery is most valuable in establishing the cranial structure of the Heidelberg race."

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, they start all over again, fresh and undismayed, with a new premise of if, if, if, and immediately in the same sentence the conclusion drawn from the "if', shoots itself like a projectile from a gun, "This discovery is most valuable!!!" Read the preceding paragraph again if you would appreciate the grim humor of this "scientific" reference to "this discovery."

Again quoting Boule, Osborn says: "But it appears rather that we have here two types of man which lived in Chellean times, both distinguished by very low cranial characters. Of these the Piltdown race seems to us the probable ancestor in the direct line of the [13] recent species of man, Homo sapiens; while the Heidelberg race may be considered, until we have further knowledge, as a possible precursor of Homo neanderthalensis." Astonishing, indeed, as we shall see.

First they construct a half-ape and a half-man, drawing conclusions from their own fancies which are arrogantly described as "established fact." Then along come scientists from all parts of Europe and America, distinguished, honest, truth-loving explorers of man's history, and knock the ape out of the reconstruction.



However, the ape was once in the formula and thus served a purpose, for though now kicked out, the restorations go right on in all their apishness, as if nothing had happened, and the world is informed that the Piltdown race (half-ape, half man) is the probable ancestor in the direct line of the recent species of man, while the Heidelberg race, to which we shall shortly give attention, is the possible ancestor of the degenerate and now extinct Neanderthal (half-ape, half-man) creature.

That Professor Osborn should pass along as "scientific" such meaningless catchwords of Boule is no longer surprising for the reason that the same Boule provides the data upon which Professor Charles Knight, associated with Professor Osborn, wrote his amazing article on the Neanderthal half-ape, half-human creature who was the immediate predecessor of modern man, published in the June, 1921, number of Popular Science Monthly. . . .

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