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The museum is marking the 100th anniversary of the hoax with a new push to find out who did it -- and why.(AP Photo/Natural History Museum) In December 1912, it was announced that a lawyer and amateur archaeologist named Charles Dawson had made an astonishing discovery in a gravel pit in southern England—prehistoric remains, up to 1 million years old, that combined the skull of a human and the jaw of an ape.
It was 40 years before the find was exposed as a hoax by scientists at London's Natural History Museum -- the same institution that had announced the find in 1912.
Now scientists believe they can finally put to rest the mystery of how one of the most famous scientific frauds in history was orchestrated and who was responsible for creating the fake remains of a human ancestor known as Piltdown man.
The bones, discovered in a gravel pit in Piltdown, East Sussex, in 1912 alongside animal fossils and stone tools, were celebrated as a missing link in the evolution between apes and humans that lived around 500,000 years ago.
Though the Piltdown Man was recognized as a fraud by 1953, it was not until 1996 that the hoaxer was "conclusively" identified as Martin A. Hinton, a curator of zoology at London's Natural History Museum.
Eoanthropus dawsoni — Dawson's dawn man — was more appropriately named than the victims of the hoax ever realised.