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On This Day… The Missing Link?

Written by: George Chittenden : 20 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 18th December, back in 1912 when an amateur archaeologist claimed to have discovered the ‘missing link’ between ape and man. Charles Dawson found part of a human-like skull in gravel beds near Piltdown village in Sussex, England. Most of the scientific community hailed the so-called Piltdown Man as the missing evolutionary link.

The Piltdown Man

The Piltdown Man

The remains were estimated to be up to a million years old. The Piltdown Man was accepted as proof of Darwin’s theory of human evolution. However, in 1949 new technology arrived that changed scientific opinion on the age of the remains. Results showed that the skull and jaw fragments of the Piltdown Man came from two different species, a human and an ape, probably an orangutan.

Charles Dawson

Charles Dawson

Scratches on the surfaces of the teeth which were only visible under the microscope, revealed that they’d been filed down to make them look human and the bones had been treated with chemicals to make them appear older. In 1953 the Piltdown Man was openly named a fraud. The identity of the fraudster was never discovered.

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