Prehistoric Man Faced Death From Above

When McGraw submitted a report on his study to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, it was sent to a reviewer who is intimately familiar with the Taung Child.

"He looked at the photos submitted with the paper [showing damage to monkey skulls caused by eagles] and he ran down to the vault, pulled out the Taung skull, and the way he tells it, almost dropped it," McGraw said. "The damage is identical."

So the research might solve one mystery surrounding the Taung Child, but it won't erase the scars inflicted by modern man.

When the skull was first discovered in a quarry in Africa, the Taung Child got no respect, in the words of the late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield.

That was the mid-1920s, and the scientific establishment thought it already had the history of human evolution pretty well figured out.

The Taung Child just didn't fit in.

A skull that had been discovered in England offered proof of the theory that man first evolved as an apelike creature with a huge brain.

The skull also demonstrated that modern man began as an Englishman, which fit nicely with conventional wisdom.

But the skull, called the Piltdown Man, was a hoax.

Years after the skull was discovered, a few scientists grew suspicious.

They found evidence that had been under their noses all along.

The skull wasn't old. And it wasn't even completely human. It was made from the cranium of a modern human, and the mandible of an orangutan. The teeth had even been filed down, and the skull stained, to make it look old.

All of which shows that even scientists can be too eager to accept something without examination if it fits nicely with their own ideas.

But all's well that ends well.

The Piltdown Man is vanquished.

And the Taung Child can rest in peace, justice duly served. That is, of course, if McGraw is right.

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