Some ruses can only go on so long before the fraud is uncovered. Here are just a few "remains" someone tried to pass off as the real deal before getting caught.
Perhaps the most notorious fraud in the search for a "missing link" (which is a misnomer, by the way) was the Piltdown Man. Charles Dawson, who proclaimed the find in 1912, was rather, shall we say, eccentric. The non-credentialed paleontologist and anthropologist had plenty of discoveries under his belt, ranging from valid to fallacious to outright frauds, before Piltdown rocked the world.
There's plenty of reasons to be suspicious of any claimed "missing link," and that's especially true for a skull found in a quarry in the United Kingdom, far from the source of the great apes in Africa. Dawson proclaimed the Piltdown man fell somewhere between apes and humans.
Not so much. It turned out in the end that Piltdown was a great ape, but a 1953 investigation conducted long after Dawson's death revealed it to be a modern ape bleached and to look like a 500,000-year-old jawbone. Research from 2010 suggests that in the fraud.
A put forth a remarkable discovery: a tooth that seemed to indicate that North America, and Nebraska in particular, had a great ape to call its own (aside from Sasquatch, of course).
There was no deliberate hoax behind Nebraska Man, but there was no Nebraska Man, either. The fossil was that of a wild pig called a peccary. Though now confined to Central and South America, the piggies roamed the Great Plains in the Pleistocene.
Nevertheless, the story of Nebraska Man snowballed out of control after the 1920s announcement. Harold Cook, the rancher who found it, simply believed it to be a higher primate. The until it was practically a Nebraska caveman. This, in turn, caused the creationist community to seize on the fossil as evidence of flimsy evidence for a progression to humanity. Really, it was just a pig's tooth and Darwin is still right.
Some of the most important dino fossil discoveries have come out of China. But so have a few frauds.
Here's what we know: warm blooded dinosaurs, usually predatory carnivores, made the slow evolutionary step into birds we see today, including ducks. Yes, you have to accept the duck as a dinosaur, despite all your better judgment.
But as with much of the fossil record, there are blanks to fill in. An animal's bones don't simply become a fossil. The climate has to be right for the sediments to settle in without erosion, leading to incomplete fossils and other blanks to fill in. A once-arid region may turn wet, or migration may move animals from one climate to another, leaving holes in the path between the velociraptor-like dinosaurs and the mallard.
So it was with some fanfare that the archaeoraptor came to the forefront in 1999, but not without heavy reservation. Put simply, the scientific community didn't buy it, but National Geographic did. Author the phenomenon of fake fossils on poor farmers in China hoping to carve out a little cash.
A caught the fraud by identifying the specific parts. It seems that various dinosaur fossils were applied to remains of a Yanornis martini, a newly discovered early bird.
I'm just going to throw this out there: if you find what appears to be the remains of a 10-foot previously unknown mummified giant in upstate New York, odds are that it's a fake.
George Hull ordered the gypsum statue to be carved in 1868, moving it slowly between artisans before bringing it to upstate New York. There it was "discovered" and became something of an attraction. Of course, the victims of the hoax weren't scientists, but the general public dropping a couple quarters to see what they thought was a genuine giant.
Hull himself really that religious people would buy anything that fit into a Biblical narrative, marking the Cardiff Giant as not just a hoax, but a rather mean-spirited one.
The real story behind the Alyoshenka myth is very shaky, complicated by the lack of present evidence of its existence. But in certain, shall we say "less skeptical" UFO circles, it is a legend.
The story, as it stands, is that a woman in the Ural Mountains of Russia found a premature child in an area that was once a testing grounds for nuclear weapons. Authorities were alerted, the woman was taken to a mental health facility, and the child was taken soon after.
Due to its deformities, some believed it to be authentic proof of an alien child, especially when the myth spread that it was taken away by the regional government. In many spurious sources, it resurfaces every few years, including claims of DNA testing. Some prove it's an alien, others not so much. If in fact Alyoshenka was ever real at all, it was likely the result of mutation or medical malady rather than extraterrestrial origin.
The Fannia scalaris, also known as the latrine fly, is very much a real insect. Sometime in the mid-19th century, an amber-encased fly was sold to a British collector. Over the years, it traded hands before arriving in 1922 at Britain's Natural History Museum. In 1966, a scientific study remarked on the similarities between the supposedly historic specimen and the latrine fly.
That's because it was a latrine fly. Whoever forged it encased a modern day fly in amber at a time when preserved insects were a hot, sought-after item. discovered the seam in the amber, leading to the uncovering of a nearly 150-year-old forgery.
In 1878, E.D. Cope reported the discovery of a vertebrate belong to what would be the largest dinosaur to ever live, the Amphicoelias fragillimus. Just that one bone was reported to be five feet tall, making the whole creature a titanic 190-foot-long dino. But as relayed in a 2016 story on , there is a slight problem: nobody knows where the vertebrate is. And nobody is entirely sure it existed at all.
Rivalries between scientists in the 19th centuries may have given rise to the rumors of the fossil, which eventually found its way into the records of the American Museum of Natural History. However, the bone itself never arrived at the museum, it seems. Further evidence claims that most long-neck dinosaurs would top out at about 100 feet long, making the existence of this behemoth improbable.
Did dinosaur and man ever walk side-by-side? Well, and get back to me. The simple answer: we walk side-by-side with their descendants today. As for the terrible thundering lizards themselves, they were all driven to extinction 65 million years ago. (If you're thinking of Nessie right now, cool your jets. The plesiosaurs were actually marine reptiles.)
The Piluxy River site in Texas has some of the most famous dinosaur tracks in the nation, but a few of them (pictured ) seem to show intertwined human and dinosaur tracks. Lo, there were two sets of tracks, and then one, and it's because the carnivorous raptors were carrying us (in their mouths) all along, right?
Despite this picture becoming a favorite of creationists, evidence refutes that these were human tracks at all. Rather, that the prints were likely dinosaur footprints making a certain impression in the ground, and that portions of the toes can still be seen despite erosion.
Mermaids are supposed to be beautiful, majestic temptresses luring sailors into the ocean deep. The Fiji mermaid was none of those things. An artifact of P.T. Barnum (arch entertainer, circus founder, and amiable con artist), the Fiji mermaid was a monkey torso sewn on to a fish backside and reported to be the mummified remains of a mermaid.
After purchasing it in 1842, Barnum incorporated it as a sideshow attraction in his circus. Eventually, the relic was "lost" in a fire, though there are some doubts as to this being its real fate given the number of copies and knock offs that proliferated after the original was first put on display.