A History Lesson With Booze ®

The Piltdown Hoax

In 1912, English fossil collector Charles Dawson claimed to have found evidence of the ‘missing link’ between apes and humans — people called it “Piltdown Man”. This week in 1953, news broke that the only thing “missing” from Dawson’s discovery was even a single grain of truth.

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CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images
CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images

The History Lesson

This week back in 1953, a fossilized skull known as “Piltdown Man” made headlines. Charles Dawson was either a liar — or a chump.

See, Dawson was the most famous fossil collector in England. And in 1910, a worker in the village of Piltdown gave him a bone. It’d been found in a gravel pit. Dawson dug there himself — and found more bones. Which fit together into a weird skull.
The teeth and cranium looked human. But the jaw was like a chimp’s. Dawson said he’d found anthropology’s holy grail: the missing link. An apeman half a million years old.

Experts from the British Museum agreed it was the find of the century. Soon anthropology textbooks listed a new species: Eoanthropus Dawsoni – “Dawson’s Dawn-Man.” Or rather, they did until 1953.

That’s when a new test revealed the skull was just six hundred years old – it had been stained to look older. The jaw came from an ape. Someone had filed down the teeth so they looked human. “Piltdown Man” was a hoax. The prime suspect? Dawson. But he never had to defend himself – he died in 1916. Since then, 38 more of his fossils have turned out to be fakes.

The Booze

The Piltdown Daisy

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Unearthed by Ryan Chetiyawardanah, bartender at 69 Colebrook Row in London, longtime home of the fake missing link.

In a shaker over ice, add:

  • 60 ml. Pisco
  • 10 ml. lime juice
  • 15 ml. lemon juice
  • 15 ml. sugar syrup
  • 6 mint leaves

Shake and pour into a coupe glass. Add a dash of soda and (if you’re feeling highly evolved) a few drops of Angostura bitters. Present it to your tablemates as “the missing drink,” and watch them believe you after downing a few.