Sunday 7 December 2014

Call For Nominations: The Dawson Awards 2015

Charles Dawson (1864–1916)
It is with extreme pleasure that I call for nominations for the inaugural
Charles Dawson Prize
in recognition of the nefarious amateur archaeologist said to have been responsible, in 1912, for mounting the Piltdown Man (Eoanthropus dawsoni) hoax, which set paleoanthropology back at least four decades. Heck! Even if Dawson wasn't the perpetrator, his name belongs on these awards because he should've known better than to fall for such a cheap trick!

Tip o' the old brown fedora to Leon Jacobson for suggesting that The Subversive Archaeologist host an archaeological equivalent of the much-revered Darwin Awards. It took less than a second to decide in whose honour this prize should be named.

One Grand Prize will be awarded, along with honourable mention for two runners-up. The awards will be announced on the first of April, 2015.

First and foremost, the Dawson Prize will be given for ignominious achievement in the archaeological sciences—broadly construed as those endeavours that contribute to knowledge of human or bipedal ape past behaviours and cognitive or cultural abilities and achievements—from observations made during excavation, or from excavated materials.

Nominees must possess advanced degrees, although it isn't necessary that they be in archaeology or anthropology. Any discipline that aids or makes possible archaeological or paleoanthropological interpretation is a potential candidate. However, possession of an advanced degree is crucial. How else to gauge how far the mighty are fallen?

The work in question must be reported in a peer-reviewed publication, to ensure that the Dawson Prize is shared equally by the researchers and their enablers—the estimable referees. The more high-profile the publication; the greater the failure, and more apt and just the deserts of this award. Publications such as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and their ilk will garner the most attention from the judges—work published in PLoS ONE will be considered only in the absence of nominees who publish in scholarly vehicles of long standing.

Special weight will be given to research findings that are uncritically parrotted in the media as having huge scientific importance. Included are minor- and major-market newspapers, and web sites devoted to science writing—especially archaeology and paleoanthropology. If you wish to have your nomination considered for this criterion, please include links to several examples.


To expedite judging, the following minimum information will be required from you.

1. Name(s) of those responsible for the research.
2. Full bibliographic information for the publication(s).
3. A hint as to why you think the work is deserving of the Dawson Prize.
4. Your name and affiliation, if you're fortunate enough to have one—an affiliation, I mean.

Submit nominations using the Comments function at the bottom of this announcement.


Let infamy reign!


  1. Robert Davis nominates Scott Wolter for his television series America Unearthed or John Anthony West for claiming that the Sphinx is 10,000 old.


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