78. “This is like that time I hit the reporter with Piltdown Man’s thighbone.”

The episode:Werewolf,” ep. 904

The riff: Inserted as dialogue by Crow after the movie’s villain Yuri hits the hero with a werewolf skull (yes) during an examination room brawl. Naturally, this cuts the hero and starts his transition into a werewolf.

The explanation: The “Piltdown Man” was an elaborate archaeological and anthropological hoax that was first perpetrated in 1912. Discovered in pieces over time by English archaeologist Charles Dawson, the skull of Piltdown Man was supposed to be that of an early hominid, a so-called “missing link” from the fossil record. There were always doubters, but it wasn’t until 1953 that the bones were definitively proven as forgeries, a mix of human and orangutan jaws that had been combined together. It’s still unknown who was actually responsible for the forgery and the hoax, although Dawson is a prime suspect. In the years that followed, the “Piltdown Man” became synonymous with anthropological BS.

Novelty factor: I knew this reference because of an interest in fossils and evolution that I had as a kid, and also because of a simultaneous interest in historical hoaxes. The fact that someone successfully fooled the entire scientific community with fake bones for more than 40 years is rather remarkable.

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