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Thread: Piltdown Man: British archaeology's greatest hoax

  1. #1
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    Piltdown Man: British archaeology's greatest hoax

    It was one hundred years ago that this hoax was perpetrated. The Guardian has an interesting article about who the perpetrators might have been.


    The aim of the study, which will take weeks to complete, is simple. It has been set up to solve a mystery that has baffled researchers for 100 years: the identities of the perpetrators of the world's greatest scientific fraud, the Piltdown Hoax. Unearthed in a gravel pit at Piltdown in East Sussex and revealed to the outside world exactly a century ago, those shards of skull were part of a scientific scam that completely fooled leading palaeontologists. For decades they believed they were the remains of a million-year-old apeman, an individual who possessed a large brain but primitive jawbone and teeth.

    The news of the Piltdown find, first released in late 1912, caused a sensation. The first Englishman had been uncovered and not only was he brainy, he was sporty.....

    What I find interesting is how bad scientific method must have been to accept the hoax in the first place. Issues such as national pride obviously took precedence over objectivity. Thank goodness such bad science no longer takes place.

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    Remember that the fossil record of early humans was very sketchy at the time and, when made, it didn't look nearly as obviously fake as it does now with a 100 years of finds and hindsight to help us.

    National pride was involved as well, yes, seeing that the French and the Germans had the best finds of the time.
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    I note that in the same year Mark Twain published a hoax story about an ancient skull found in the desert I wonder by chance if the two are related (Piltdown was later) and I do hope someone comes up with something as good this April 1st.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    Remember that the fossil record of early humans was very sketchy at the time and, when made, it didn't look nearly as obviously fake as it does now with a 100 years of finds and hindsight to help us..
    I'm not suggesting that I would not have been fooled as well, just remarking on how difficult it is to remain objective when you really want something to be true. The length of time it took to uncover the hoax probably reflects mainly on the priorities of the time rather than anything else.

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    It's worth noting that there were people who objected almost immediately, but they were a minority.
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    I always found this a very interesting story.

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    Someone once wrote this was the best
    crosswoed clue; Skullduggery in Sussex.

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    Finding the perpetrator of Piltdown Man has been a cottage industry for a long time, like finding the true identity of Jack the Ripper, or Tony Blair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    Finding the perpetrator of Piltdown Man has been a cottage industry for a long time, like finding the true identity of Jack the Ripper, or Tony Blair.
    Heeeeey, you don't think... ?
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    It took you a long time to notice he doesn't think.

    I for one am struggling to find out which is less likely: Tony Blair being Jack The Ripper, Tony Blair being the Piltdown Man perpetrator, or Tony Blair being the Piltdown Man. Why do Mike's posts always end with such cliffhangers...

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    Cliff Hanger might have been the Piltdown man if he read Mark Twain in a little local newspaper in the USA, I still think that's a clue.

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    You just gave me new ammunition for the next time I go to Australia. I always have to fill out massive amounts of forms there, some of which ask "last name", "first name", "preferred name". I always have a strong tendency to fill in "Max Power" as "preferred name", but "Cliff Hanger" would also do.

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    Why not try Ned Kelly?

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    Australian Customs Agent: "And do you have a criminal record?"

    English Visitor: "I didn't know you still need one."

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    Australian Customs Agent: "And do you have a criminal record?"

    English Visitor: "I didn't know you still need one."
    A true English visitor would have used a subjunctive mood: I didn't know you still needed one

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    A true English visitor would have used a subjunctive mood: I didn't know you still needed one
    I see your point. I just wasn't in a subjunctive mood today.

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