Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Hoaxes in Anthropology
Kenneth L. Feder
Virtually all fields of science are afflicted to some extent by hoaxes. Anthropology is no different, with each of its subfields having been subjected to at least a measure of intellectual dishonesty and fakery. Though the motives behind anthropological hoaxes have varied, the element underlying their success has always been the same: an audience predisposed to believe the implications of the fabricated data. There is, perhaps, no better example of this than the most notorious hoax in paleoanthropology—and, perhaps, in all of science—Piltdown Man. The world first heard of the discovery of human fossil remains at Piltdown in a short announcement published in the British science weekly Nature . On December 5, 1912, that publication reported the discovery by Charles Dawson, a lawyer by trade but a collector of scientific specimens by avocation, of fragments of a human cranium and mandible in Sussex, in the south of England. The remains ...