On 18 December 2012, to mark the centenary of the infamous Piltdown Man discovery, we revealed a special display of some of the fossil bones and objects reportedly found in the Sussex gravel pit in 1912. The discovery was made by a local solicitor and amateur antiquarian, Charles Dawson (1864-1916).
The brown areas in this 1913 reconstructed skull (left) show the fossil pieces that were found. Please note the reconstructed skull is pictured, but not part of the display.
The Piltdown jawbone
See the skull fragment, jawbone and tooth found at the Piltdown site in our What's new in the collections display case. They were thought to show the evolutionary 'missing link' between humans and apes, before being exposed later as a hoax. To this day it remains a mystery as to who perpetrated this elaborate and famous scientific fraud.
After closer observation, the jaw fragments were found to belong to an ape, most likely an orangutan.
Also on show are flints and animal remains allegedly found nearby. These too were later revealed to be fraudulent and it appeared they had been stained to match the local rocks and soil.
To mark the centenary of the Piltdown finds they are being re-analysed using latest technology in the hope of solving one of the biggest mysteries in palaeontology.