Institute of Archaeology

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Centenary of Piltdown Man Fraud

18 December 2012

Piltdown Man centenary event

In the week that marks 100 years since the extraordinary hoax that was Piltdown Man was presented to the world, the 'fossils' are being studied again.

The hoax, which was created by combining parts of a medieval human skull with the lower jawbone of an orangutan, was exposed in 1953.  New forensic level testing of the material is now underway at the Natural History Museum to try to identify once and for all who was responsible for the deception and will include DNA testing, isoptopic analysis, radiocarbon dating and spectroscopy.

As part of this new study Matt Pope has been back to the Piltdown gravels themselves and has indicated:

"We want to go back to the original records of the excavations, to follow the logic of Dawson and others involved and to see these deposits with modern archaeological and geological eyes. This will give a better understanding of the context of the fraud - it can allow us to begin the systematic study of the genuine part of this hoax - the Ice Age gravels, their age, their significance and the genuine finds associated with them."

Read more about Piltdown Man on the Natural History Museum website and the organisation by Matt Pope of a centenary event with the Sussex Archaeological Society earlier in the autumn.

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