INSTANT WISDOM > HUMOR > 1998
5/27/98

The story behind the letter below is that there is this nutball in
Newport, VT named Scott Williams who digs things out of his back yard
and sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian Institute, labeling
them with scientific names, insisting that they are actual
archaeological finds.
This guy really exists and does this in his spare time!
Anyway...here's the actual response from the Smithsonian Institution.

Bear this in mind next time you think you are challenged in your duty
to respond to a difficult situation in writing!
____________________________________________________

Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Mr. Williams:
Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled
93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post...Hominid skull."

We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and
regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it
represents conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston
County two million years ago.
Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie
doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children,
believes to be "Malibu Barbie."
It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the
analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of
us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to
come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that
there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might
have tipped you off to its modern origin:
1. The material is molded plastic.  Ancient hominid remains are
typically fossilized bone.
2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic
centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified
proto-homonids.
3. The dentition pattern evident on the skull is more consistent with
the common domesticated dog than it is with the ravenous man-eating
Pliocene clams you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.

This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses
you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the
evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into
too much detail, let us say that:
A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has
chewed on.
B. Clams don't have teeth.
It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your
request to have the specimen carbon-dated. This is partially due to the
heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to
carbon-dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic
record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced
prior to 1956 AD, and carbon-dating is likely to produce wildly
inaccurate results.
Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National
Science Foundation Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning
your specimen the scientific name Australopithecus spiff-arino.
Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance
of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the
species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like
it might be Latin.
However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating
specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a Hominid fossil,
it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of
work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that
our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the
display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the
Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will
happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your
Newport back yard.
We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you
proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the
Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you
expand on your theories surrounding the trans-positating fillifitation
of ferrous ions in a structural matrix that makes the excellent
juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the
deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive
crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Chief Curator- Antiquities

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