Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smithsonian Letter
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
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 loath to come to contradiction with your
However, we do feel that there are a number of physical
attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to its modern
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
* I know this has been around for awhile, but it still breaks me up. Happy Wednesday!!


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Heh.. this one's new to me. That Harvey is one hilarious dude........ even if he didn't work for the Smithsonian...

Utah Savage said...

It's a new one for me and my laughter will result in sore abs for me tomorrow. Thanks man.

susan said...

It was new to me too and absolutely hilarious. Gracias :-)

Steve Emery said...

I've read it before but had forgotten many of the most delicious details, which had me going again like the first time. the clams, spiff-arino, pressing the Director to pay for it, 9 mm crescent wrench... Thanks for sharing.

okjimm said...

I'm glad everyone liked it... it broke me up years ago, and still is a funny read. One of the benefits of NOT cleaning out email files! ;)

Randal Graves said...

I feel so out of the loop. This is the first time I've actually seen this. :)

Dean Wormer said...

I'd never read that. Hysterical.

okjimm said...

The letter was originally sent to me by a friend about five years ago who was working at the Pentagon. He prefaced the letter stating that he KNEW the folks at the Smithsonian who were receiving the artifacts! He double-bullshitted me through about three more e-mails before he confessed!!

Further proof that the Pentagon is full of bull-shit artists!!!

Utah Savage said...

So that's what their doing at the Pentagon. That makes me feel better.

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