FileTitle: Prose1605.html
Category: Humor
Type: Prose
Description: Smithsonian, Letter to
Ok, the story behind this... There's this nutball who digs things
 out his back yard and sends the stuff he finds to the Smithsonian
 Institute, labeling them with scientific names, insisting that they are
 actual archeological finds. The really weird thing about these letters
 is that this guy really exists and does this in his spare time!

 Anyway... here's a letter from the Smithsonian Institute from when he
sent them a Barbie doll head.

 Paleoanthropology Division
 Smithsonian Institute
 207 Pennsylvania Avenue
 Washington, DC 20078

 Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-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 one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be
the "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 it's 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

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

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 it's 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's 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

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 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
Curator, Antiquities