Archaeology - Charles Dawson, Reiner Protsch von Zieten, Shinichi Fujimura
In 1912 England, Charles Dawson had made a stunning discovery: the link between humans and primates. The so-called Piltdown man, named Eoanthropus dawsoni, was dug up by the amateur archaeologist, and had a human-sized brain compartment and ape-sized jaw. Dawson unearthed a LOT of other spectacular finds, including a previously unknown species of mammal (Plagiaulax dawsoni), three new species of dinosaur, and a new form of fossil plant, Salaginella dawsoni.
Just 41 years later, scientists concluded it was a forgery. The human skull was just 6000 years old. And the jawbone? Orangutan. All of the fossils found at the landmark Piltdown site had been planted.
No wonder Dawson didn't find a link - the real missing link between Neandertals and modern humans was hiding in a peat bog near Hamburg - or so said Reiner Protsch von Zieten, a German professor. Von Zieten was acclaimed for such finds as the 36,000 year old Hahnhöfersand Man, the 21,300 year old Binshof-Speyer woman, a 50 million-year-old "half-ape" called Adapis that had been found in Switzerland, and the 27,400 year old Paderborn-Sande man. His work work "appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together," according to the 2005 Guardian article. Oops - apparently von Zieten literally had no idea how to work the carbon dating machine. The heralded findings? H-Man: died 7,500 years ago; B-S woman (ha): died in 1300 BCE; Adapis: actually dug up in France (not sure about dates); P-S man: died in 1750.
It's not bad enough he falsifed data and rewrote the history of anthropology. He also faked his own history - not of noble blood at all, but the son of a Nazi MP. He is tied to the shredding of documents detailing "gruesome" Nazi scientific experiments and the disappearance of heads from some of the 12,000 skeletons at the university.
Another archaeologist, Japan's Shinichi Fujimura, can at least be excused for planting his "finds" - the devil made him do it. Or so he said when he was caught in 2000. His nickname, "God's hands," came from his uncanny ability to find prehistoric artifacts. Too bad he was caught on camera digging holes and burying objects.