Britain's greatest hoax.

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About this work


Documentary examining the 'Piltdown Man', thought to be the 'missing link' between apes and man when discovered in 1912 but exposed in 1953 as a hoax. Charles Dawson, the amateur archaeologist who made the first discoveries at Piltdown, is cited as the most likely culprit. Although his reputation was untarnished during his lifetime, after his death in 1916 he was later found to have fabricated 40 archaeological finds from Pevensey Fort in Sussex. His partner at Piltdown, Sir Arthur Smith Woodward of the Natural History Museum, is thought not to have been involved in the deception, partly because he continued to dig at Piltdown for 20 years after the first discoveries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is introduced as a possible suspect, as he fell out with the scientific community due to his fervent belief in spiritualism, but it would have been quite out of character for a man of such integrity to be involved in this case. When the investigation turns to the Natural History Museum there is evidence that employee Martin Hinton, an enigmatic character and practical joker, knew that the Piltdown Man was a hoax all along. He also had a running feud with Smith Woodward so could have devised this hoax to make a fool of him. The politics of both the era and the Natural History Museum, combined with the atmosphere of competitiveness and rivalry of the latter, means that no one will ever really get to the bottom of this mystery, but this programme gives an interesting account of the facts and theories.


United Kingdom : BBC TV, 2003.

Physical description

1 video cassette (VHS) (40 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Copyright note

BBC Television.


Broadcast 21 Nov 2003 at 21:00.

Creator/production credits

Produced and Directed by Kate Bartlett; Series Editor John Farren.



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