After investigation by museum scientists, fragments of a human skull and ape-like jaw unearthed in Piltdown, Sussex were found to be a hoax.
In 1911, pieces of a human skull and ape-like jaw were found in a quarry in Piltdown, Sussex by Charles Dawson, a solicitor and amateur archaeologist. Dawson showed the remains to his friend Arthur Smith Woodward, Keeper of Geology at the Museum.
In their enthusiasm to proclaim the 'missing link', the men declared the remains to be that of a human ancestor, Eoanthropus dawsoni, in 1912.
Teeth and other artefacts were found on the site until Dawson’s death in 1916.
In following decades, newer hominid discoveries cast doubt over the human credentials of the specimens.
In 1949, fluorine dating of the specimens by Museum geologist and palaeontologist Kenneth Oakley suggested they were younger than expected. Together with Joseph Weiner from Oxford University, Oakley subjected the remains to further chemical testing.
The results indicated that the jaw was from a modern ape, teeth filed down and jaw stained to match the skull.
The forgery and subsequent exposure of Piltdown Man, so intimately a part of the Museum’s history, is well documented in the Library’s collection of manuscripts, drawings and photographs.
100 years on, discover what we know about this huge hoax – once believed to be the 'missing link' between apes and humans.
Find out about the key suspects and new research that could finally reveal the truth.