A Man Who Never Was


This is not a photo, but the painting made by John Cooke, R.A., but was so documentary and so iconic to be left out.

For forty years, it was one of the archaeological finds of the century–a fragment of jaw and a part of a skull found in Piltdown Commons, Sussex, England that could prove not only the existence of “Missing Link” between man and ape, but also that apes evolved into man in England. Piltdown was proclaimed genuine by several of the most brilliant British scientists of the day: Arthur Smith Woodward, Arthur Keith and Grafton Elliot Smith. Named Eoanthropus dawsoni (Dawson’s Dawn Man) after their discoverer Charles Dawson, the Piltdown Man was later proved to be a modern hoax.

The painting “The Piltdown Committee”, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915, showed the personalities concerned with the Piltdown “discovery.” Back Row: Mr. F. O. Barlow, maker of the casts; Prof. Grafton Elliot Smith, anatomist; Charles Dawson, and Dr. Arthur Smith Woodward, zoologist. Front Row. Dr A. S. Underwood, expert on teeth; Prof. Arthur Keith, anatomist; W. P. Pycraft, zoologist and Woodward’s assistant; and Sir Ray Lankester, zoologist. The painting shows Keith measuring the skull under the tutelage of Smith. Notably absent was Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin–one of the original diggers with Woodward and Dawson, away on war service. The photo of Charles Darwin looks down upon the proceedings from the back wall.

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