The story behind the letter below is that there is this nutball in Newport,
RI named Scott Williams who digs things out of his backyard and sends the
stuff he finds to the Smithsonian Institute, labeling them with scientific
names, and 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.
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...Hominidskull."
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
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
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 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,