Vol.XIV No.II Pg.8
April 1977

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

Eastern New Mexico University, in Portales, is home of the Paleo Indian Institute, first of its kind devoted exclusively to studying the Palen Indians "who hunted extinct varieties of elephant, horse, bison and camel, more than 10,000 years ago in the New World" (so says the sign). Their work is highly respected in its field; so while in a Portales meeting, I visited their building and displays.

After an hour or two amidst hones, pottery and stone implements of that bygone civilization — and after reading all the claims of "finds" and the identification processes — one begins to look more closely for bits of evidence which may lie at our feet. I had walked not more than fifty feet from the museum when I noticed a peculiar eggish object in the grass of the campus. It was about the size of a "dollar" marble, mottled grey in color, but coated with a flaky white substance that made me think it had been buried in a caliche bed. It was a bit light for stone, and had a feel more of leather than of fossil. Hmmm!

Thinking it may have been dropped from the kit of some archeologist, I returned to the institute and asked Dr.______ to identify it. Magnifying glasses came out, lights went on, and various departmental workers gathered about to solve the mystery. One said it was a nut — I'm not sure if he referred to the object or its finder. Another said, no, it was a long-preserved egg, perhaps of a snake or turtle. "It is fossilized." "Absolutely not." "It is organic!" "It's a nut!"

Someone suggested taking it to Dr. _______, and after a reasonable wait the verdict from the other office was, "It is fossil." The first Dr. objected. "That is wrong — go tell them I said they were wrong." The office crew politely declined that assignment. Someone suggested the object be taken to Zoology, but that was immediately squelched. "Anthropology can handle this!" So, the search went on. Finally the object was taken to a lab. It was rubbed, pricked, and tested with acetone. Then the investigator raked it with his teeth, tasted, and laughed aloud. "It is candy," he said. "Someone got tired of a jawbreaker, and threw it into the grass." Moral? Well, the object is final authority, be it fossil or word of God. The student's guess, or wish, cuts little ice in determining truth.