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Boldest Hoax, The

Viewing Ideas


Before Watching

  1. Have students research the time line of humans. Ask some students to research where Piltdown man was supposed to fit in. (Before the hoax was revealed, Piltdown Man was believed to have lived near the end of the Tertiary period during the upper Pliocene epoch, more than 1.25 million years ago.) Draw a time line on the board and have students present their findings.

  2. As students watch, have them collect information for the "Great Piltdown Forgery" activity.

After Watching

  1. Discuss the forgery with students. Who in the program had the means, motive, and opportunity to carry out the forgery? What knowledge and techniques were necessary to pull it off? Would students consider the Piltdown forgery a hoax, a crime, or both? Why? What role might national pride have played?

  2. Have students contrast the evidence for Piltdown man and that for another startling find, the hominid "Lucy," which was discovered in 1974. Have students research the evidence supporting Lucy's authenticity and evaluate that evidence against the evidence supporting Piltdown man's veracity. How do they compare? (Piltdown man had fewer bones that were found over a longer period of time. Lucy's forearm bone, femur, skull, ribs, and lower jaw were initially found together; two weeks later, several hundred additional bone fragments were recovered. There were no techniques available to date Piltdown man at the time he was found; argon-argon dating was used to date Lucy's remains.)

Teacher's Guide
Boldest Hoax, The