Piltdown man and radiocarbon dating
“My view is that Teilhard [de Chardin] was an adviser to Dawson, and that the motive behind the forgery was that it was initially a joke against [Smith] Woodward,” Thackeray says.
“It was a joke that went seriously wrong.” Dawson’s calculated chicanery underscores why studying Piltdown Man is still important to modern science, De Groote says.
Further analysis revealed they were an amalgam of carefully carved and stained human and ape bones.
The potential perpetrators included Dawson and Smith Woodward, naturally, but also Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest who assisted the excavation, and Martin Hinton, a volunteer who worked with Smith Woodward, among others.
Although he helped with the excavation, he always let Dawson guide the work, she says.
Still, others remain convinced that Dawson had help.
More than anything, he was desperate for acceptance and recognition within the U. “It now appears that the chemical data supports the abundant circumstantial evidence that Dawson was the brains behind the hoax,” says geologist Stephen Donovan of the Naturalis Biodiversity Institute in Leiden, the Netherlands, who did not participate in the current study.
Dawson was able to fool the experts of the day by employing the same trick used by successful con artists since time immemorial: He showed them what they wanted to see.
He also had a habit of small-time forgery, with several other of his less-celebrated findings later being shown to be fakes. Letters reveal his persistent, but ultimately fruitless, attempts to join the Royal Society.
DNA sequencing of the teeth suggested they all came from the orangutan, which De Groote suspects the forger or forgers might have obtained from a curiosities shop.