Ape-Man or Modern Man?

The Two Piltdown Skull Reconstructions

W. P. Pycraft

The Illustrated London News Sept. 1913



Dr. A. Smith-Woodward's The Celebrated Heidelberg Jaw, Professor Arthur Keith's

Original Restoration of the to which the Jaw of the Piltdown Restoration of the Skull

Skull of the Piltdown Man: Man Is Related. of the Piltdown Man: A

A Profile View of the Brain. Profile View of the Brain.


Bones of Contention: Dr. Smith Woodward and the Newly Found Tooth

If posthumous fame is better than total oblivion, then Eoanthropus Dawsoni, the harmless and obscure individual who departed from this life some few hundred thousand years ago, in Sussex, did not die in vain! We have fragments of his skull, but none of his history, which we are trying to make for him. In this we are only doing what the Heralds' College is so often called upon to do for obscure persons whom fame has suddenly transformed into personages.

As restored by Professor Arthur Keith: A Tracing of the Lower Jaw of the Piltdown Man—from the Restoration Recently Published by Us. Both reconstructions were illustrated in our issues of August 14 and August 23.

According to Professor Arthur Keith, of the Royal College of Surgeons, Eoanthropus might have edited a newspaper. According to Dr. Smith Woodward, of the British Museum, he would have made a very poor "printer's devil." Who shall decide between them? All must depend on the nature of the evidence—or rather, on the interpretation of the evidence. Professor Keith chooses to measure the man of the past by the standard of to-day. Given certain fragments of a human skull, he elects to reconstruct therefrom the cranium of an intellectual giant. Dr. Smith Woodward takes these same fragments, and, in the light of their own evidence, essays his task of restoration. He has spent a lifetime in studying extinct animals. Eoanthropus is a fossil animal, and must be measured as such. On Tuesday last, in one of the evening lectures at the British Association, he gave a spellbound audience the reasons for the faith that was in him. Most of the evidence has already been placed before our readers in these columns. It now remains for us to tell of what was new and of Dr. Smith Woodward's vindication of his methods of interpretation where extinct animals are concerned.

The small size of the brain-cavity, and the ape-like jaw and teeth were, he remarked, not at all surprising when viewed in the light of what is known already of our earliest ancestors. Any effort at compromise, any endeavour to squeeze these ape-like characters into a human mould, is, he argued, an attempt to juggle with facts, and doomed to fail.

As Originally Restored by Dr. A. Smith Woodward: The Skull of the Piltdown Man—Ape-Like in Jaw, and of Small Brain-Capacity.

As Originally Restored by Dr. A. Smith Woodward: The Jaw of Eoanthropus dawsoni—Two-thirds natural size. The missing teeth are shown by the dotted outline.


From the character of the jaw, and of the only teeth it retained—two molars—the lecturer pointed out, he had had to give the restored portion oft he jaw large canines. His critics assured him that such teeth were impossible. Unfortunately for them, the canine has since been found, and both in size and shape it matches the tooth in the same side of the restored jaw. So much for the critics! This tooth was found by Father Teilhard, a young French palæontologist, who was working with Mr. Dawson and the lecturer. It was found in undisturbed gravel, not far from the spot where Mr. Dawson found the jaw last year. Like the molars, it is much worn, but slightly smaller and less procumbent, though more prominent than had been predicted. The wear of the surface shows that between it and the cheek tooth next to it there was a gap to permit the lodgement of the upper canine, precisely as in the restoration condemned by the critics!

Some slight modifications have recently been made in the modelling of the skull, and a new cast of the brain-cavity has been prepared by Mr. Barlow. This has been submitted to Professor Elliot Smith, the great expert on brains. He finds that it confirms his original report. But a full account of this is presently to be communicated to the Royal Society.


Showing the Newly Discovered Canine Tooth, Which Dr. Smith Woodward Believes Proves the Truth of His Restoration: The Final Restoration of the Jaw of Eoanthropus Dawsoni by Dr. A. Smith Woodward, Showing the Newly Found Tooth in Place and the Missing Teeth in Dotted Outline.

Readers of "The Illustrated London News" will remember that there has been much argument as to what manner of man it must have been who owned that part of a jaw and portion of a skull which were found not long ago in a gravel deposit near Piltdown Common. It was not long before keen controversy arose between Dr. A. Smith Woodward, Keeper of the Geological Department of the British Museum, and Professor Arthur Keith, Conservator of he Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Both these gentlemen made reconstructions. Dr. Smith Woodward's showed that the Piltdown man (or woman) was half-man, half-ape; Professor Keith's that he was a man with a brain as big as that of modern man. So it came that at South Kensington the fragments of bone were made the basis of what a layman would call a "missing link" — "Eoanthropus Dawsoni"—with a brain-capacity of 1070 cubic centimetres; while at the Royal College of Surgeons they were made the basis of a large well-modelled skull with a brain-capacity of 1500 cubic centimetres. This was labelled "Homo Piltdownensis." One of Professor Keith's arguments was: "By some mischance, the groove for the median blood-channel, which runs along the roof of the skull, was displaced nearly an inch to one side . . . . In the original reconstruction the bones of the right and left sides are nearly in contact; in the amended reconstruction [his own[, they are widely separated in order that the groove for the venous channel may fall in its natural position—namely, in the middle line of the roof of the skull." Now, as is noted in an article on this page, the finding of a missing tooth has, according to Dr. Smith Woodward, proved his original belief. So much may a single tooth do!

There may be some who still question whether this skull and jaw belong to the same individual. But the jaw is obviously of the lowest type yet found, containing human teeth, and thus absolutely agrees with Professor Elliot Smith's verdict in regard to the brain, which, he says, is, though human, of the lowest type yet seen.

None but those who have an affection for doubts will hesitate to regard this jaw and skull but as parts of one individual. And one who is capable of understanding the nature of evidence will believe that this skull ever contained "a brain as big as that of a modern man."

The evidence unfolded by Dr. Smith Woodward left no alternative but acceptance. But I should like to say that I have just essayed an independent restoration of the skull. Ignoring all other work, and simply "articulating the bones in a manner which has been accepted by all anatomists in all times," as Professor Keith claims to have done, but without attempting to prove a theory, I found, when I came to compare my restoration with that of Dr. Smith Woodward, that did not differ by one millimetre. The result is not surprising.

As Restored by Professor Arthur Keith: The Skull of the Piltdown Man—Man-like both in Jaw and in Brain-Capacity.