An ancient natural pearl has been found in the Brremangurey Rockshelter during an excavation by a team of researchers. The rare and unique pearl is believed to have existed for 2,000 years.
The excavation was being carried out by researchers from the Wunambal-Gaambera Aboriginal Corp., the University of New England and the University of WollonGong (UOW). The team located the pearl on the north Kimberley coast of Western Australia.
The pearl was discovered, settled inside a shell among a number of other oyster pearl shells. The Brremangurey Rockshelter, from where the shell was obtained, is believed to have existed for more than 12,000 years.
“Pearls have not been recovered before from ancient sites in Australia. Since the find is unique, analysis could not damage or take samples from any portion of the pearl, so researchers from UOW developed a range of non-destructive analyses to gather more information,” said Kat Szabo of the UOW, in a statement.
To prevent the pearl from getting damaged during examination, the researchers developed a nondestructive way of analyzing it. The team dated the shell of the pearl using the radiocarbon analysis. In addition, a micro-computed tomography of the pearl confirmed that it got formed naturally, unlike modern pearls that are cultured artificially.
“The analysis confirmed that it was a natural pearl that had grown inside a small pearl oyster for over a decade before the animal was harvested for eating,” team member Brent Koppel explained in a statement.
The recently discovered pearl and its shell will be put up on display at the Western Australian Maritime Museum in Fremantle, Australia, during this month's Lustre Exhibition.