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Hunger stones in the Rhine, Weser, Elbe: »If you see me, then cry«


»Hungersteine« appear in German rivers due to low water levels. These are intended to warn of drought and famine - and could be seen more often in the future given the climate crisis.

Enlarge image

Hunger stone near Bleckede (picture from 2018): "If this stone sinks, life becomes more colorful again"

Photo: Philipp Schulze / picture alliance / dpa

The sun is burning, it hardly rains, the river levels are sinking.

And so stones and rocks with inscriptions appear in many German riverbeds, which are otherwise completely covered by water and are only visible at extremely low water levels.

These so-called hunger stones show years of drought with carved inscriptions, some also warn of the consequences of the lack of water: "If you read this, then cry," reads an inscription.

Water shortage does not only mean drought, crop failure and famine - rivers were and are important trade routes, and when ships with food could no longer sail, this often resulted in supply bottlenecks.

Are our ancestors warning of the climate crisis?

The oldest known inscription on a hunger stone dates from 1417, some of the stones are from the Middle Ages or the late 19th century.

When they now warn of drought and heat, it seems like a reminder from our ancestors.

The warning from our ancestors seems appropriate to many on social media: a tweet showing the hunger stone from Děčín in the Czech Republic with warnings in German and Czech – including a request to cry – went viral.

He has already received almost 100,000 likes, and media around the world have gratefully picked up the story, including the BBC's Spanish channel and the news portal

The photos that were distributed come from the extreme summer of 2018, when SPIEGEL also published a video about the Děčín Hunger Stone.

There is currently no such extreme drought in the Czech Republic.

At least in its Czech part, the Elbe is one of the few European rivers that do not have exceptionally low water levels.

However, in other bodies of water, the water level is actually extremely low, and here there have been sightings of starving stones, not quite as spectacular as the one from Děčín:

  • Hunger stones from 1959 and 2003 have appeared in the Rhine

    near Leverkusen

    , reports the »Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger« in its regional edition.

    Apparently the stones are near the mouth of the Wupper.

    A scratch with cross ornaments refers to the year 1959 and is visible »every few years«.

    A stone next to it commemorates the year 2003.

  • At Remagen-Kripp, too, a hunger rock protrudes from the water of the


    , according to Bonn's "General-Anzeiger" at the beginning of August - by then the stone had been visible "for about a month", the newspaper quoted the manager of the local Rhine ferry as saying .

    But it was even drier in 2018, when you could reach the rock from the shore on foot.

  • Also at Rheindürkheim near Worms, the low water level in the


    has uncovered hunger stones, reports the »brushedter newspaper«.

    On one of them the inscription "Ano 1857" can be read, below it is written "Year of Hunger 1947" and other years in which the stone was apparently visible: 1959, 1963 and on another stone is written "Anno 2003".

    The current year should only be supplemented if the water level falls lower than ever before.

    That's not the case yet.

  • A hunger stone has appeared in


    Werda valley in the Vogtland region of Saxony, as reported by the »Freie Presse«.

    That was last the case in 2018.

    The dam was built between 1904 and 1909, so the stone (in its capacity as a hunger stone) is not much older.

    Apparently it has no inscription either.

  • Hunger stones have also appeared in the


    due to the low water level in the upper reaches, reports the "Tägliche Anzeiger" from Holzminden.

  • A hunger stone can also currently be seen in the


    , which has only been there since 2015: at the Bleckeder Hafen near the ferry dock at river kilometer 550. It reads: »If this stone sinks, life will become more colorful again.«


Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-08-16

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