FileTitle: Prose564.html
Category: Humor
Type: Prose
Description: Scientific Writing
 THIS IS AN ACTUAL LETTER FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE SMITHSONIAN.
 Paleoanthropology Division                   {Unverified}
 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 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-hominids.

    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'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 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
     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