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The Antarctic ice cap significantly affects global ocean circulation and climate. Continental glaciogenic sedimentary deposits provide direct physical evidence of the glacial history of the Antarctic interior, but these data are sparse. Here we investigate a new indicator of ice sheet evolution: sulfates within the glaciogenic deposits from the Lewis Cliff Ice Tongue of the central Transantarctic Mountains. The sulfates exhibit unique isotope signatures, including I 34 S up to +50‰ for mirabilite evaporites, I " 17 O up to +2.3‰ for dissolved sulfate within contemporary melt-water ponds, and extremely negative I 18 O as low as a '22.2‰. The isotopic data imply that the sulfates formed under environmental conditions similar to todaya € s McMurdo Dry Valleys, suggesting that ice-free cold deserts may have existed between the South Pole and the Transantarctic Mountains since the Miocene during periods when the ice sheet size was smaller than today, but with an overall similar to modern global hydrological cycle.

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Nature Communications