Dewey Decimal Project: 573.3 SPE Piltdown: A Scientific Forgery

The 570s are general NewImagebiology which includes evolution which includes the Piltdown man hoax. Since it was mentioned in passing in <cite>The Last Human</cite> and I knew very little about it, when I spotted this book on the shelves, I decided it would be my next read.

It should be a great book: a fake skull was planted in a gravel pit in England, the cranium of a human with the jaw of an orangutan, a hoax that managed to go undetected for several decades despite the misgivings of some contemporary paleontologists. The mystery becomes who was the perpetrator, and unlike some mysteries examined by book authors, Spencer claims to have a definitive answer to the question.

This perhaps is the downfall of the book. To level a charge of who the forger could be, Spencer felt obligated to document his argument extensively and as a result, the book reads drily and ends up being dull. Spencer does do a good job of making his case, but sadly fails at creating a compelling reading experience.

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