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Along Europe's rivers, drought reveals centuries-old 'hunger stones'


Ancient stones resurface on the banks of the Elbe and the Rhine. They bear witness to the intense drought in Europe.

While an exceptional drought is raging in Europe this summer, traces of the past have resurfaced in recent days in Czech and German rivers.

Due to the low water level, inscriptions engraved on ancestral stones again become visible to the naked eye.

Witnesses to droughts over the centuries, these so-called “


” stones recall the sufferings endured by populations from the 15th century.

The drying up of the rivers then augured poor harvests and the risk of famine.

On a stone that reappeared in mid-August located in the Elbe river - more than 1000 km long - in Decin (Czech Republic), we can read this: "

If you see me, then cry


Read alsoDrought: “We never thought we would be affected like this”, the disarray of municipalities that lack water

This famous "

hunger stone

" in the Czech Republic, not far from the German border, had already resurfaced in 2018 during an intense drought.

It is one of the oldest hydrological monuments in Europe.

According to a 2013 study by a Czech team of archaeologists, several dates of the lack of water are listed on this same rock: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892 and 1893.

Another "hunger stone" emerged from the bed of this river also indicates this: "

When this stone is submerged, life will resume colors.


The 'hunger stone' pictured in Decin, Czech Republic, on August 29, 2018, during the low water level of the Elbe.

Michal CIZEK / AFP

“A reminder of our ancestors”

According to the German weekly

Der Spiegel


the rivers of Central Europe “

have always been, and remain, important trade routes.

From then on, when European waterways dried up, “

ships carrying food could no longer navigate.

The oldest inscription dates from 1417, the end of the Middle Ages, the magazine points out, calling this trace a “

reminder of our ancestors.


Several of the “hunger stones” are revealed by the low water level in Worms, Germany, August 17, 2022. TILMAN BLASSHOFER / REUTERS

This summer, the Rhine also reached a historically low level in Germany.

In Emmerich, just before the Dutch border, the longest river in Europe thus reached a historic low of zero centimeters on August 17, according to the German press.

This low level has since caused the appearance of "

hunger stones

", which had fallen into oblivion.

Read alsoPollution of the rivers: thirty-six years after "


", the rebirth of the Rhine

In Worms, on the left bank of the Rhine, other


rocks testify to the suffering of the German people after the war.

On one of them, we can read the inscription "

Ano 1857

", but also "

Hunger year 1947

" and other years, such as 1959 or 1963. The inscription "

Hunger year 1947

" recalls a period of great famine, after the Second World War.

The Rhine was no longer navigable, 60 kilometers had frozen over that winter.

One of the “hunger stones”, where the date 1947 is engraved, in Worms, Germany, August 17, 2022. MAXIMILIAN SCHWARZ / REUTERS

Hunger stones

” were also discovered this summer in the Weser, a German river in northern Europe, reports the German-language press.

For researchers, these vestiges constitute a “


” support for past heat waves.

But, for the German magazine


, their reappearance is also “

a warning of the difficult times

” to come.

Recent estimates indeed predict a worrying future.

Already 47% of European territory is facing a water deficit, according to the European Drought Observatory.


Drought: the Loire so low that it is crossed on foot

Source: lefigaro

All tech articles on 2022-08-19

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