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Larry Lozier wanted to recover a piece of his own not-so-distant past—the pond he remembered from his childhood. He wound up unearthing a relic from the very distant past—the bones of a 10-ft.-tall mastodon that lived almost 12,000 years ago.

Lozier, 40, and his wife, Sheryl, 38, bought their 1821 white farmhouse in Hyde Park, N.Y., from Larry’s parents, Si and Marie, in 1997 and set about renovating. On their agenda: restoring the silted-up pond at the end of the lawn. “I remember fishing in it,” says production manager Lozier, “and my mom and dad roasting catfish.” So last summer he and insurance company employee Sheryl and their daughter Laura, 7, watched as a contractor cleaned up the water hole. Left by

the side of the pond was what seemed like a big, mud-covered log. “I brushed some clay off,” says Lozier, “and discovered what looked like a big knucklebone.” The Loziers began sifting the debris, finding more bones, identified by Dr. Christopher R. Lindner, an archaeologist at nearby Bard College, as those of a mastodon, a primitive relative of the elephant.

For weeks scientists from the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, N.Y., led by Dr. Warren Allman, slogged through the mud to recover the rest of the paleolithic pachyderm. Reassembled, it eventually will go to a museum. And, says Lozier, “it’ll be a topic of conversation at every dinner party we attend for the rest of our lives.”