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Woodward, who was the curator of the British Museum’s paleontology department, dubbed the discovery Eoanthropus dawsoni, or “Dawson’s Dawn-man,” but he was more commonly known as the Piltdown Man.
The first doubts about Piltdown Man’s legitimacy surfaced in the 1920s and ’30s, with the discovery of other early human remains around the world (such as the Taung skull in South Africa, now known as Australopithecus).
"Until the late 1940s, all carbon-14 in the Earth's biosphere was produced by the interaction between cosmic rays and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere," said Graham Jones of the University of Adelaide.
"This changed in the late 1940s up to 1963 when atmospheric atomic explosions significantly increased the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere," said Jones, who led the study and presented its findings Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, held in California.
A microscope revealed that the teeth within the jaw had been filed down to make them look more human, and that many of the remains from the Piltdown site appeared to have been stained to match each other as well as the gravel where they were supposedly found.
"The problem goes beyond ordinary consumers being overcharged for a bottle of expensive wine from a famous winery with a great year listed on the label, that isn't the right vintage year," Jones said.
None of them showed the large brain and ape-like jaw of Piltdown Man; instead, they suggested that jaws and teeth became human-like before a large brain evolved.
New dating technology based on fluorine testing emerged in 1939, but the Piltdown remains had been locked away after Dawson’s death in 1916 and were not extensively tested until a decade later.
A somewhat more convincing case surfaced in 1996, when an old trunk found in storage at the British Museum was found to contain fossils that had been stained in the same manner as the Piltdown remains. The clouds of uncertainty may be lifted this week, when the Geological Society meets to discuss the findings of recent examination of the Piltdown Man remains.
Scientists and archaeologists are using the most up-to-date forensic techniques, including isotopic analysis, sophisticated carbon dating and DNA extraction to find the true origins of the remains.By the time of Dawson and Woodward’s historic announcement, the search for a missing link to prove Darwin’s still-controversial theory had grown intense.