15 Biggest Hoaxes That Fooled The World

14. Piltdown Man

Dead Fairy Hoax

The Piltdown Man discovery is perhaps one of the most infamous hoaxes in palaeontology. Not only did it change the face of human evolution at the time of its discovery, but it was not uncovered as a hoax until nearly half a century later. There's a practical joke that got seriously out of hand.

The "discovery" was made in a gravel pit in Piltdown, Sussex in the year 1912 by one Charles Dawson. He claimed to have found broken fragments, both in situ and scattered about the spoil heap of the gravel pits, of an early human skull. The specimen appeared to have the jawbone of an ape, but the cranium of a modern human and the discovery was hailed as the "missing link" between humans and apes, setting scientists on a big old wild goose chase that would last for the next 40 years.

Over the following years, other, genuine, fossils were discovered around the world that did not fit with the Piltdown Man and suspicions began to be raised about its authenticity. Eventually, in 1953, the fossil was exposed as a fake, composed of a medieval skull, the jawbone of an orangutan and the teeth of a chimpanzee. It had been aged with artificial staining and the filing down of its teeth.

The exact identity of the forger remains a mystery, with suspects ranging from Dawson himself to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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