Unlike the recent footprints discovered in Mexico, a skull fragment discovered in a peat bog in Germany that was said to be 36,000 years old?the “missing link” between Neanderthals and modern man?has been found to be a fraud. This isn’t the first time this has happened.

Luke Harding writes in The Guardian that German anthropologist Reiner Protsch von Zieten has admitted falsifying the dating of important fossils. His discoveries changed much of our knowledge about ancient history?finding they are fake will change this even more. Protsch’s fake fossils seemed to prove that modern humans and Neanderthals co-existed, and perhaps even interbred.

The scandal came to light when Protsch tried to illegally sell his university’s entire chimpanzee skull collection to the US.

Another of his fake fossils seemed to prove a link between birds and dinosaurs. Archaeoraptor seemed to be the remains of a large feathered bird with the tail of a dinosaur. The fossil was supposedly smuggled out of China and sold to a private collector in the US, but experts were suspicious. Closer examination proved it was actually two fossils glued together.

This isn’t the first time this has been done: the most famous fake fossil was Piltdown Man, discovered in the UK 1912. It was a huge skull, like that of a modern human, with an ape-like jaw, and it was also known as the “missing link.” It wasn’t revealed to be fake until 1953, when carbon-dating became available and the skull was shown to be only 600 years old. The jawbone was identified as coming from an orangutan.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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