Ok, the story behind this... There's this tripped out guy 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 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.
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078
Mr. Scott Williams
Newport, VT 05855
Dear Mr. Williams:
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
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.
- The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains
are typically fossilized bone.
- The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9
cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest
- 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:
- The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll
that a dog has chewed on.
- Clams don't have teeth.
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,