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Piltdown Man (Paperback)

The Secret Life of Charles Dawson

P&S History > Archaeology > Archaeological Method & Theory

Imprint: Tempus Publishing Ltd
Pages: 272
Illustrations: b/w illus
ISBN: 9780752425726
Published: 30th June 2003
Casemate UK Academic


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In 1912 Charles Dawson, Britain's most eminent amateur palaeontologist, discovered the missing link in a quarry outside the small town of Piltdown in Sussex. Shortly afterwards his death was mourned by the scientific community. In 1953 Piltdown Man was finally announced a fraud and the backlash against Dawson began. Miles Russell's new book is an extremely readable investigation of Dawson's guilt, or otherwise, asking whether he was responsible for other fabrications during his illustrious career and, if he was, why did he go to so much trouble? A dubious Neolithic axe, human shadows on the wall of a dungeon, a cave full of artefacts, a Roman' cast-iron figurine and an anvil with 1515' stamped on it are just a few of Dawson's claim to fame. Added to this are his sightings of sea monsters in the Channel and rare exotic birds flying above Hastings. In each case, and this includes Piltdown Man, Russell presents the facts as we know them today and then delivers his judgement and looks for the culprit. In some cases Dawson may have been the gullible victim of a practical joke or hoaxer but his guilt is as clear as day, with a knighthood and election to the Royal Society as his goals. Dawson's extraordinary career and the troubled origins of archaeological science are both vividly brought to life by Russell.

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