You never know what you might find in a landfill, right?! Such as a 2000 year old pearl!
On the north Kimberly coast of Western Australia, The Brremangurey Rockshelter in the Admiralty Gulf is home to over 12,000 years of Indigenous history. There are shell middens and rock art. A team of archeologist were excavating a midden, a prehistoric trash pit, when they discovered a real treasure. Among a number of oyster shells, inside one shell was a pearl. A round 5.9mm 0.25g pearl! It was so perfect that even though it was deep in the pit, among shells, researchers thought it must be a cultured pearl instead of an ancient natural pearl. But, they were wrong!
An ultra high resolution CT analysis shows that the Brremangurey pearl has neither internal artificial nucleus found in most saltwater cultured pearls or the type of growth banding we see in cultured pearls. It is indeed natural! There are no record of pearls being of much cultural significants to the natives of Australia. However, the shells are very common in archaeology sites as sources of food. There are also stories of oysters being used for rainmaking ceremonies.
As for the age of the pearl, the layer of waste this pearls was discovered in was radiocarbon dated to 1800–1906. This is why this pearl is believed t be over 2000 years old!
With further analysis researchers were able to confirm that this pearl had grown for twelve years inside the oyster before it was harvested. I have to agree with the archaeologists when they describe this pearl as “irreplaceable.”
The lead author of the research paper, Kat Szabo, Associate Professor from UOW says, “Natural pearls are very rare in nature and we certainly despite many, many (oyster) shell middens being found in Australia – we’ve never found a natural pearl before. The location makes it particularly significant because the Kimberley coast of Australia is synonymous with pearling, and has been for the better part of the last century.”
The pearl was actually found in 2011, it took four years of research to determine what type of pearl this is. What a wonderful discovery!
And as for our trips to Australia, it looks like I have to go back! This pearl is set to go on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Perth, Australia later this month.