Students in geology and archeology returned to the campus to discover a unique opportunity awaiting them: helping unearth the 14,000-year-old skeleton of a mastodon discovered in nearby Hyde Park.  First mistaken for a log when a pond behind the Hyde Park home of Larry Lozier was dredged in 1999, the mastodon humerus was identified by scientists from the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in Ithaca, NY.  Despite disappointing results from excavations in the drained pond in June 2000, a second PRI expedition located the skeleton on August 21, and calls went out for volunteers.  Working for six weeks, students and experts from Vassar, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Mount Holyoke College, the State University of New York at New Paltz and the Boston Museum of Science recovered 95 percent of the prehistoric animals bones, teeth and tusks, making the Hyde Park Mastodon one of the three most valuable specimens of Mammut americanum in the world.  In addition, it was hoped that paleocologists, researching the site’s microscopic traces of plant material, pollens, wood and snails would find a record of the vegetation at the site during its re-colonization by vegetation.

One of the student volunteers, Jonas Dibiec ’02, told The Miscellany News that students were told by the anthropology department to “develop their own independent study or field study” in conjunction with their site work.  “In order to dig,” he added, “you have to go into the pit barefoot, and you can only dig with your hands so that the bones don’t get damaged.”   “This is an opportunity,” said Associate Professor of Geology Jill Schneiderman, “for students to do original research on the glacial age history of the Hudson River Valley.”