Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 22:23:03 -0400
Subject: Latest Findings

I liked this random letter. In fact, I liked it so much that I am forwarding
it onto all of you (even though I usually skim through the random jokes
e-mailed from cyberspace without passing them on) I am going to start digging
in my backyard and sending in my findings to the Smithsonian also.

[This is, supposedly, a real letter that was sent out by the
Smithsonian. Apparently, a Smithsonian employee took a copy of it
home to show to her husband and he put a copy of it on the internet.]

Subject:  Latest Findings

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 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

     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

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