A date with the missing link


FOR 40 years they were considered one of the archaeological finds of the century: A fragment of jaw and part of a skull that could prove man evolved from the apes. They were the bones of Eoanthropus dawsoni found near Piltdown Common - the Missing Link!

But in 1953 they turned out to be a scientific fraud.

A group of scientists used the new method of fluorine testing to get a more exact date on the bones. What the test showed surprised them: The jaw was modern and the skull only 600 years old.

The jaw was really that of an orangutan. It had been filed down and parts that might have suggested it’s simian origin were broken off. Both pieces had been treated to suggest great age.

How did these faked fragments of bone fool the best scientific minds of the time? Perhaps the desire to be part of a great discovery blinded those charged with authenticating it. Many English scientists felt left out by discoveries on the continent.

A Piltdown centenary conference, organised by the Sussex Archaeological Society, takes place at Lewes Town Hall on September 22. Non-members are welcome.

It should be a fascinating day with some experienced local and non-local lecturers exploring the latest investigations.

Pictured, the ‘Missing Link’.