NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Dino-Bird Turns Out To Be Another Piltdown Man

March 30, 2001

In 1999, National Geographic trumpeted the discovery in China of a "missing link" between birds and dinosaurs -- the fossilized bones of a creature with dinosaur features and wings. Scientists had hailed the discovery as proof that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

It turns out that Archaeoraptor liaoningensis, named for the fossil-rich region in China where it was supposedly unearthed, was a fake.

  • A report in the journal Nature says forensic scanning revealed it to be a clever mixture of bones cemented to a slab.
  • Using computer tomography, the team found that someone had coated a thin stone slab with grout and glued on it a jigsaw of 88 fragments of rocks and fossilized bones.
  • Also, the front end of Archaeoraptor came from a single bird fossil, but the rear with the dinosaur's tail was a hodgepodge built up from as many as four separate specimens.

Observers say the ability of scientists to detect glued together fakes has improved with high-tech methods of analysis. It took more than 40 years for the Piltdown man, a supposed species of prehistoric human whose remains were found in England, to be exposed as a hoax.

Source: Michelle Healy, "Scanning Cements 'Dino-Bird' Hoax," A Better Life, USA Today, March 29, 2001.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues