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Lecture

Lecture 29 - Lessons from the Past: the Piltdown Forgery

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Department
Anthropology
Course
ANT203H5
Professor
Esteban Parra
Semester
Winter

Description
ANT203Y5 – BiologicalAnthropology Lecture 29 – March 11, 2014 Lessons from the Past: the Piltdown Forgery The Background - At the turn of the 20 century, the fossil remains attributed to the human family were very scarce, and contested. The Neander Valley Man - In 1856, workers in a limestone quarry near Dusseldorf (Germany), discovered a primitive-looking skull and other bones. These remains were interpreted in many different ways by the scientist of the time. o This is the name to the famous Neandertals o 1856 is earlier than the publication of Darwin’s book The Java Man - Later, in 1891, Eugene Dubois, a Dutch anatomist, discovered in Java a skull cap with a very primitive morphology. Again, this finding was very controversial at the time o Species: Homo Erectus o Some people thought it was part of the human lineage, while others didn’t Interpreting Human Evolution - During the first decade of the 20 , anthropologists were struggling to understand how human evolution happened. - Which human adaptation came first, large brains, or bipedalism? The Discovery of “Piltdown man” - In 1912, Charles Dawson, an amateur archeologist, discovered in Piltdown (South England), some fossils that were regarded as relevant to understand human origins. - It was a “missing-link” between apes and humans. The Fossils - The Piltdown fossils consisted of human-like skull fragments and an ape-like jaw - An ape-like canine tooth was also discovered a little bit later. - Fossils of extinct animals, such as mastodon, beaver, hippopotamus, horse, and primitive elephant, were found in the same stratum, seemingly confirming the antiquity of the human remains The Interpretation - The Piltdown fossil was accepted by many prominent anthropologists, and favored the hypothesis that large brains developed very early in the process of human evolution. - Conclusion: Large brains came first!! o At the beginning there was a lot of controversy, where people either supported or didn’t support the fossil findings More Fossils Found in Piltdown - Some scientists thought that the cranium and the jaw didn’t belong to the same individual, but to a human and an ape, respectively. - However, the announcement of a second fossil in 1915, greatly reduced the skepticism of the scientific establishment about the “Piltdown man”. ANT203Y5 – BiologicalAnthropology Lecture 29 – March 11, 2014 ALittle Bit Later, in SouthAfrica… - Raymond Dart, a young anatomist working in SouthAfrica, found in 1924 the fossil skull of a juvenile ape with a small brain, but some interesting human-like features In the Human Lineage - Dart’s fossil, which he named Australopithecus africanus, had an ape sized brain, but some dental and postural characteristics closer to humans. He thought A. africanus was intermediate between apes and humans o The Taung Child o Dart found that the brain was really small, and the teeth and the face was more modern looking than the Piltdown o Because of this many people thought that this was a juvenile ape, and not an ape o But today, we now know that Dart was correct for classifying the Taung Child as an early part of the human lineage ACold Reception… - However, very few anthropologists accepted Dart’s ideas, and he was severely criticized. - Most anthropologists believed the Taung Child was just a juvenile ape. - These are some of the reasons… o All early human fossils are found inAfrica Wrong Time, Wrong Place… - They considered that the Taung Child was just a juvenile ape, resembling humans more than adult apes. - Everyone was looking somewhere else, Europe (Neandertal man) and Asia (Java man). - A. africanus, with a small brain and human-like teeth, contradicted the generally accepted view of hominids having large brains and ape-like jaws (Piltdown man). 23 Years of Frustration - It took 23 years
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