European drought exposes ancient stones, old bombs, dry lakebeds

Weeks of baking drought across Europe have seen water levels in rivers and lakes fall to levels few can remember, exposing long-submerged treasures and a few unwanted hazards.

Baking heat and dry riverbeds expose 'Spanish Stonehenge' and 'hunger stones'

How Europe's drought revealed pieces of history

5 months ago
Duration 1:00
From Germany to Italy to Serbia, receding water lines due to severe droughts across Europe have exposed various historical artifacts like 'hunger stones' and sunken ships from the Second World War.

Weeks of baking drought across Europe have seen water levels in rivers and lakes fall to levels few can remember, exposing long-submerged treasures and a few unwanted hazards.

In Spain, suffering its worst drought in decades, archaeologists have been delighted by the emergence of a prehistoric stone circle dubbed the "Spanish Stonehenge" that is usually covered by the waters of a dam.

Only seen 4 times since submerged

Officially known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the stone circle currently sits fully exposed in one corner of the Valdecanas reservoir, in the central province of Caceres, where authorities say the water level has dropped to 28 per cent of capacity.

The dolmen of Guadalperal, also known as the Spanish Stonehenge, is seen due to the receding waters of the Valdecanas reservoir on the outskirts of El Gordo, Spain, on Aug. 3. (Susana Vera/Reuters)

It was first discovered by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in 1926, but the area was flooded in 1963 in a rural development project under Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

Since then, it has only become fully visible four times.

Memories of past droughts have also been rekindled in Germany by the reappearance of so-called "hunger stones" along the River Rhine.

Stones warn of past droughts

Many such stones have become visible along the banks of Germany's largest river in recent weeks.

Bearing dates and people's initials, their re-emergence is seen by some as a warning and reminder of the hardships people faced during former droughts.

One of the 'hunger stones' is revealed by the low level of water in Worms, Germany, on Aug. 17. (Tilman Blasshofer/Reuters)

Dates visible on stones seen in Worms, south of Frankfurt, and Rheindorf, near Leverkusen, included 1947, 1959, 2003 and 2018.

Another of Europe's mighty rivers, the Danube, has fallen to one of its lowest levels in almost a century as a result of the drought, exposing the hulks of more than 20 German warships sunk during the Second World War near Serbia's river port town of Prahovo.

The vessels were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany's Black Sea fleet in 1944 as they retreated from advancing Soviet forces, and still hamper river traffic during low water levels.

A World War Two bomb is seen being removed a few days after being discovered in the dried-up River Po, which suffered from the worst drought in 70 years, in Borgo Virgilio, Italy on Aug. 7. (Flavio lo Scalzo/Reuters)

Italy has declared a state of emergency for areas around the River Po, and in late July, a previously submerged 450-kilogram Second World War bomb was discovered in the low-running waters of the country's longest river.

Around 3,000 people living near the northern village of Borgo Virgilio, close to the city of Mantua, were evacuated while military experts defused and carried out a controlled explosion of the U.S.-manufactured device earlier this month.

People walk in Sirmione, Italy, on Aug. 16 as underwater rocks emerge from the water of Lake Garda after northern Italy experienced the worst drought in 70 years. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

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