Commemorating the great Piltdown fraud

Share this article

TO commemorate the centenary of the notorious Piltdown fraud, the Sussex Archaeology Society has assembled leading experts on the history of the site and the personalities involved in the hoax.

They will speak in Lewes on September 22 alongside specialists in the fraudulent tools, human remains and fossils found at the site.

The Piltdown fraud was the most famous scientific hoax of the last century – the so-called ‘missing link’, later shown to be a fabrication. It is a gripping story of human fallibility and manipulation.

Although several people were implicated, there is no proof of the identity of the perpetrator, and the conference will examine the evidence against the chief suspects, place the fraud in its historical context and consider the artefacts and fossils of Piltdown, concluding with an overview of Stone Age archaeology in the 21st century.

For the first time the intriguing relationship of the Society itself to the prime suspect, Charles Dawson, will be explored and the case against the new suspects presented along with the opportunity to view a number of the finds from the hoax.

The speakers’ insightful knowledge, combined with the scope of lively discussion and debate, promises a day of new evidence and intrigue around the greatest mystery story in the history of science.

In 1912 the discovery of a new and remarkable fossil human from Sussex was announced at the Geological Society, London. Now, a century on from this announcement and almost 60 years after it was revealed as an audacious hoax, the Piltdown Man affair continues to intrigue and fascinate.

Indeed, it is arguable that in the fields of archaeology, human origins and natural science, Piltdown remains the most internationally recognisable Sussex place-name.

The conference will also provide a chance to consider and celebrate the true nature of the early Stone Age record in Sussex from the internationally important site of Boxgrove to the unexplored potential of Sussex river valleys and rock shelters.

The venue is the Assembly Room at Lewes Town Hall. Non-members are welcome.