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Spoof letter from the Smithsonian
"The story behind the letter below is that there is a guy in
Newport, Vermont named Scott Williams 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
archaeological finds. Anyway...here's the (alleged) response from the Smithsonian Institution. True or otherwise, bear this in mind next time you think you are challenged in your duty to respond to a difficult situation in writing."

Smithsonian Institute
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...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
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 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 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,
Harvey Rowe
Chief Curator- Antiquities

[This story is spoof]

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