Dear People Who Think They Have Found the Artifact that Will Change Archaeology As We Know It,

I am currently in the 25th grade. If you ask me to identify your artifact please do not call me “little lady” or turn to face the undergraduate male standing beside me to answer the question I just asked you. It is also bad form to send me an email with a subject line THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME WITH MY PHALLUS PENIS HAMMER. I realize that you are appreciative of the long and uncomfortable half hour we spent together as I explained why your stone maul could not be both “nipple topped” and “phallic” at the same time. I am, however, a state employee, the university reads my emails, and my boss is getting the wrong impression.

If you are planning to contact me to identify your artifacts perhaps you could consider the following advice:

  • If your only description over the phone is that “it fits nicely in your hand,” it is not an artifact. If it was an artifact you would say it looks like an axe, or an arrowhead, or a stone phallus and then I would know I was in for another uncomfortable half hour (see above).
  • If you found a dinosaur egg in a stream bed it is not an artifact, it is a fossil. Please contact the Paleontology Department. If that stream bed is full of similarly shaped rocks, if there are in fact “hundreds of ’em,” you have not discovered the lost dinosaur egg graveyard. My attempts to talk you through the scientific reasoning behind why this is not the case have obviously been a complete failure.
  • If you found a petrified heart or eyeball or any other organ see reference to dinosaur eggs above. Also, expect some laughter if you reach a paleontologist by phone.
  • If you have found a footprint preserved in stone that belonged to Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti or any other scientifically unconfirmed beast, please write to the Mammalogy Department.
  • If you found a tool made by one of the aforementioned creatures, we are still debating whether or not you have contacted the right department. And it is not an artifact.
  • Similarly, do not contact me about finding pieces of UFO’s. Archaeologists study artifacts made by humans, not extraterrestrials.
  • If you insist upon believing that “the man” is for some reason controlling the publication of archaeological discoveries, why are you writing to the employee of a state owned institution to unveil your unprecedented find? I really do not appreciate being accused of being owned by the aforementioned “man,” being a liberal and slightly socialist leaning scientist. If you already believe that I am going to cover up your discovery, why call?
  • If a crystal is speaking to you please get help. Similarly, if you have found mud people in your backyard I suggest you call a specialist. I am happy to hear that your sister is concerned about you crawling around on your hands and knees looking for their tiny coffins that hang from tiny ropes. I also can do nothing about Taiwan Satellites (although you enclosed an excellent sketch) and the Blackhawk helicopters circling the YMCA.
  • As the museum where my office is located for some reason does not sort our mail according to the new 9-11 commission recommendations, please include a return address on your package. Otherwise I will be forced to open your letter/tin foil wrapped package with tweezers and a scalpel while wearing gloves and a protective mask. Although this is highly entertaining for the undergraduates who work in my lab it is unlikely that I will take your request seriously.
  • Please do not call me if you are drunk, or if you wish to fly me to an undisclosed location in the desert on your private jet to view a large stone circle. If it is such an important find, why will you not tell me where it is? I can only assume that it is because “the man” was listening in on our conversation and thus please refer to the discussion above.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do want to see your cool artifacts. However, I must tell you, that more than half of the people who come to see me actually just have plain old boring rocks. That’s not a judgment. I am sure the Geology Department will be interested in seeing your rocks. At least that is what I will tell your adorable 8-year-old son when you bring him to my office to identify the “artifact” he found that “fits so nicely in his hand.”

Really, why do you torture me so?

Stephanie Evans