Harrison, Terry Department of Anthropology, Paleoanthropology Laboratory, New York University, New York, New York.
Howells, W. W. Department of Anthropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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An alleged fossil human based on craniodental fragments that were eventually discovered to constitute a skillful hoax. The Piltdown man hoax was the scientifically most successful fraud in the history of anthropology. Between 1908 and 1914, Charles Dawson, a lawyer and amateur prehistorian, and his associates, claimed to have recovered craniodental remains of a fossil human ancestor, along with primitive tools and mammalian fossils, from Barkham Manor near Piltdown in Sussex, southern England. The skull fragments included a partial braincase with relatively thick bone, but otherwise the skull was similar to that of modern humans in having a relatively large braincase, steep forehead, and poorly developed bony ridge above the eye sockets (see illustration). The lower canine was apelike in being quite large, but it had a humanlike wear pattern. The fragmentary lower jaw was missing many of the critical parts useful for distinguishing humans from apes, such as the articular condyle (the region of the lower jaw that articulates with the base of the cranium) and the chin region, but it was generally similar to that of great apes. The molar teeth had flat wear, resembling those of humans. Overall, the skull provided an excellent intermediate stage between apes and humans, suggesting that brain expansion had preceded facial specialization during the course of human evolution. The associated fauna, the simple flaked stone tools (called eoliths), and the geology all indicated that the human finds were early Pleistocene in age (in current terms, a period dating to 2–1 million years ago), older than any fossil human discovered prior to that time. See also: Fossil; Fossil humans
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