Fort Benton, MT — Ten-year-old Bryce Poulson made a big discovery last October, and it’s shaking things up in the archaeology world.
He first sensed something was different about the Batman fan forum he was browsing when he saw a yellow character with arms and legs dancing in one of the comments. It’s certainly not like any emoji he had seen before.
He never would have guessed that he had just stumbled across a 1.3 decade-old secret.
BROWSING THROUGH HISTORY
When his parents saw the archaic emoji, they knew it was special. It didn’t take long for the family to find itself at the center of a major excavation.
“I immediately called the Smithsonian,” says Mark Poulson, Bryce’s father. Behind him, scientists and historians alike are hard at work archiving the extensive comment thread, which spans a staggering twenty-seven pages. Many of the posts are dated as far back as early AD 2005.
“In all my years I’ve never seen a primitive emoji with such perfectly preserved appendages,” says Professor Arnold Emmanuel, Director of Anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley, who specializes in pre-YouTube civilizations.
“We’re only at page eleven and we’ve already uncovered two Myspace-era trolls.”
“They communicated just like us”
Among the others studying the site are paleographers Rashidi Masry and Daniel Chou of the University of Michigan, who have been instrumental in the ongoing effort to decipher the obscure writings.
Masry highlights a line of cryptic text. “Here they’re discussing the trailer for Batman Begins, which agrees with the timeline we have on record.”
“We just look at what the thread tells us and try to build a narrative,” says Chou. “For example, it derails here after one commenter mentions someone named Bush. From there we can say, ‘Okay, that must have been their leader.’”
That commenter, Bowling4SoupIsNo1, is especially remarkable, says Emmanuel.
He points to an image of a zebra poking its head in and out of frame next to the specimen’s comment. An incredibly rare GIF avatar. “That it still animates after all these years is impressive, to say the least.” To some this may seem insignificant, but archaeologists can learn quite a bit from such details.
“Given the funny zebra GIF, we can reasonably infer it was fond of animals behaving like people,” says the renowned anthropologist. “This is not inconsistent with the theory that even our earliest ancestors were idiots.”
Emmanuel’s work is far from over, even after the site is fully documented. For him, there will always be another Bowling4SoupIsNo1 waiting to be found. His Holy Grail? The missing link.
“We share so many traits with these creatures, but the one key difference seems to be temperament. The evidence suggests they were generally happier,” he says. It’s uncertain what a missing link might look like, but Emmanuel believes his search will ultimately lead him to the first ironic “thanks obama” commenter. “I think that specimen would hold the answers to some of our greatest questions.
“It may even tell us why we are the way we are.”
As for Bryce, this has been a life-changing experience. Ever since that chilly October morning, he’s had dreams of following in Emmanuel’s footsteps. He can’t wait to get to work. Or, as he puts it, “I just want my computer back.”