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


Ancient stones reappear on the banks of the Elbe and the Rhine. They bear witness to the intense drought in Europe While an exceptional drought is taking place in Europe this summer, traces of the past have resurfaced in Czech and German rivers in recent days. Due to the low water level, the inscriptions engraved on the ancestral stones are again visible to the naked eye. XV century. The drying up of the rivers then portended bad 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”. to be affected like this”, the disorder of municipalities that do not have water. This famous “stone of hunger” 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 team of Czech archaeologists, this same rock contains several dates of the lack of water: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 18968 and 18968. Another “hunger stone” that emerged from the bed of this river also says this: “When this stone is submerged, life will resume its colors.” The “hunger stone” photographed 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 rivers dried up, “ships carrying food could no longer sail”. The oldest inscription dates from the year 1417, the end of the Middle Ages, notes the magazine, which calls this trace a “memory of our ancestors”. 17, 2022. TILMAN BLASSHOFER / REUTERS This summer, the Rhine also reached an all-time low 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 led to the appearance of “hunger stones”, which had fallen into oblivion. Also read River pollution: thirty-six years after “Chernobyl”, the rebirth of the Rhine In Worms, in the left bank of the Rhine, other “famine” rocks bear witness to the suffering of the German people after the war. In one of them, you can read the inscription “Ano 1857”, but also “The year of the famine 1947” and other years, such as 1959 or 1963. The inscription “The year of the famine 1947” recalls a period of great hunger, after the Second World War. war The Rhine was no longer navigable, 60 kilometers had frozen during that winter. One of the “Hunger Stones”, engraved with the date 1947, 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, the German-language press reports. For the researchers, these vestiges constitute a “documentation” medium of past episodes of heat waves, but, for the German magazine Stern, their reappearance is also “a warning of difficult times” to come. The latest estimates predict a worrying future. 47% of the European territory already faces a water deficit, according to the European Drought Observatory SEE ALSO – Drought: the Loire so low that you can cross it on foot
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