Antarctica has not always been a desolate land of ice and snow. Earth's southernmost continent once was home to rivers and forests teeming with life.

Using satellite observations and ice-penetrating radar, scientists are now getting a glimpse of Antarctica's lost world. Researchers said on Tuesday they have detected buried under the continent's ice sheet a vast ancient landscape, replete with valleys and ridges, apparently shaped by rivers before being engulfed by glaciation long ago.

This landscape, located in East Antarctica's Wilkes Land region bordering the Indian Ocean, covers an area roughly the size of Belgium or the U.S. state of Maryland. The researchers said the landscape appears to date back to at least 14 million years ago and perhaps beyond 34 million years ago, when Antarctica entered its deep freeze.