"Asymmetrical characters"

In case you worry that paleoanthropology never casts off bad ideas, take a look at the intro to a review paper by Ernest Hooton in 1925 Hooton:asymmetrical:1925:

Within the last few years the discoveries of new fossil forms of man and of the anthropoid apes have made it very obvious that the early range of the giant Primates was considerably more extensive than most anthropologists previously were willing to admit. A remarkable and indubitably ancient form of man has come to light in Northern Rhodesia. A precursor of the modern Australian man has been discovered at Talgai, Queensland, and Professor Dubois, the discoverer of Pithecanthropus erectus, has disclosed the fact that his Java finds included apparently Australoid human crania, the knowledge of which he imparts to his fellow-workers only after some two-score years of silence. A molar tooth from the Middle Pliocene deposits of Nebraska has been pronounced by distinguished authorities to be that of a new genus of anthropoid ape, and the face and endocranial casts of a young anthropoid ape, claimed by its discoverer to show humanoid characters, has just been recovered from the limestone at Taungs, Bechuanaland, South Africa. More than this, some of the most recalcitrant antagonists of the eolithic theory have recanted and admitted to the human origin of the Pliocene flints from the 16-foot level of the Foxhall gravel pit in England, thus acknowledging the existence of an implement-using Tertiary man.

Crazy. Whenever you hear people tell you about the resistance faced by people like Dart and Leakey to their early discoveries, remember the sheer amount of nonsense that passed for paleoanthropology in those days. It must have been a constant effort for scholars to sift the wheat from the windstorm of chaff. Most claims were extraordinary, and many of them contradicted each other.

Of course, many of my colleagues will be happy to rail at length against the nonsense that passes for science now. I note only one element of consistency – it really hadn’t been “two-score years of silence” for Dubois, but it had been more than 20. We seem to bump up against similar prolonged periods of secrecy fairly often.