Infamous fraud exposed


An infamous fraud about the “missing link” between ape and man featured in Iden and District Natural History Society’s first meeting of the season on October 9.

Members heard Ken Brooks talk about Teilhard de Jardin, a Jesuit priest and renowned scientist, who studied as a young man at Ore Place, off Elphinstone Road in Hastings, now demolished. He became a keen fossil hunter locally and donated his collection to Hastings Museum when he left England.

He had been encouraged in this pastime by Charles Dawson, the infamous author of the Piltdown Man, part of a skeleton assembled in a fraudulent intent to find the “missing link” between ape and man. Accepted by the Natural History Museum in 1912, the hoax was only discovered in 1949 by the use of new dating technology. De Chardin was absolved from any complicity in these proceedings.

In the second part of his talk, the speaker set the scene around Hastings some 100 million years ago in the Mesozoic era, when sauropods and raptors roamed this then swampy area.  His fossil finds (shown above) nearly all came from the base of the cliffs between Fairlight and Hastings, but he warned his audience of the danger of falling rocks should they be tempted to go looking for dinosaur foot-prints.

The next meeting of the Society will be held in Iden Village Hall on Friday October 23, when Judith Scott will talk on “Travels of a whale-hunting naturalist”.


Photo: Kenneth Bird

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