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To answer the question, researchers are turning to an unlikely source: 4,000-year-old plants that have been preserved along with pyramids, tombs and mummies.
For years, scholars of ancient Egypt have been struggling to pinpoint the exact dates of each pharaoh’s reign.
The results allowed them to estimate new dates for 37 pharaohs, including King Tut, Ramses II and Hatshepsut.
For example, the team gathered seeds and plant materials from King Tut’s tomb and measured their carbon-14 levels.
The first doubts about Piltdown Man’s legitimacy surfaced in the 1920s and ’30s, with the discovery of other early human remains around the world (such as the Taung skull in South Africa, now known as Australopithecus).
None of them showed the large brain and ape-like jaw of Piltdown Man; instead, they suggested that jaws and teeth became human-like before a large brain evolved.
Dawson and Woodward announced that one of the skulls and the jaw belonged to a primitive hominid, or human ancestor, who lived some 500,000 to 1 million years ago.
The scientific community celebrated Dawson's discovery as the long-awaited "missing link" between ape and man and the confirmation of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Woodward, who was the curator of the British Museum’s paleontology department, dubbed the discovery Eoanthropus dawsoni, or “Dawson’s Dawn-man,” but he was more commonly known as the Piltdown Man.
They combed through museum collections in Europe and the United States—export of antiquities is prohibited in Egypt—and looked for organic materials such as seeds, baskets, textiles, papyri, stems and fruits.