[Copy of a real letter from the Smithsonian...]

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
 it's 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 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