A unique ceramic tile has been found in Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf by a team of Antarctic scientists who found it in early July.
The discovery was made by an expedition led by researchers from the University of Queensland’s School of Geography and one of Australia’s leading Antarctic research organisations, the Australian Antarctic Division (AAED).
The Australian Antarctic Divisions research team discovered the ceramic tile in early August, the Antarctic Times reports.
“The first step in this discovery was to try and determine the exact nature of the material, which was a bit like looking at the tip of a fingernail, to understand the shape,” AAD Deputy Director Dr Sarah Stoll told ABC News.
“We were very surprised to find this ceramic tile,” Dr Stoll said.
“It was in fact, quite spectacular and quite different from any other ceramic tile that we had come across in Antarctica.”
Dr Stoll and her colleagues first saw the tile in the Ross Ice shelf in September, but did not expect to find such a large number of ceramic tiles in the region.
“I was quite surprised,” Dr Spoll said, explaining that the number of different types of ceramic tile were staggering.
“For example, one tile in particular we found contained the name of the Australian Prime Minister, Robert Menzies,” she said.
Dr Stoklosa and her team then began to study the tile, which they identified as a ceramic tile.
“When we analysed it, we saw the name on one side of it and then we saw on the other side of that that it was a type of ceramic, which is the same as a porcelain tile,” she explained.
“That’s what we’re seeing on this tile.
So it’s a very interesting finding, but there’s some important things to learn from it.”
Dr Spoll and the team believe that the ceramic tiles have been there for at least 5,000 years, dating back to the Neolithic period around 2,500 years ago.
“In fact, it’s one of the oldest ceramic tiles we have discovered,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“So that means that it is a significant age.”
There are only a few hundred other ceramic tiles that we have, which are in some way very similar to this.
“Dr Thode said the team is hopeful that they will eventually be able to identify the origin of the ceramic.”
This is the first time that we’ve had a ceramic-type tile found on the Antarctic Ice shelf,” she added.”
But this is an area where there is some very interesting potential for exploration.