A Singer, A Song

May 25, 2008

Australopithecus spiff-arino

Filed under: Fun,Geek — galewis @ 8:25 am

So with all of these summer projects, I’ve been digging up plenty of detritus from the back yard. It’s never once occurred to me that any of it might be of interest to the world at large. What incredible discovery, I wonder, have I let slip through my fingers, cast aside as nothing more than common clay clods, forever lost to posterity and to humanity? Alas, alack.

There’s an internet legend that’s told of Scott Williams of Newport, Rhode Island, who dutifully submits his paleontological discoveries to the Smithsonian Institute. Although the story is evidently fiction, it’s still pretty funny. Here’s the supposed response he received from the Smithsonian in 1994:

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 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 has
been chewed on by a dog

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 it's 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

1 Comment »

  1. This made me laugh in so many ways! I am so taking this and claiming originality…la, la, la

    Comment by jflood — August 1, 2008 @ 11:20 pm

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