What are the Hunger Stones?

Droughts around the world are uncovering all kinds of finds: from forgotten cities to war tanks. But in Germany and the Czech Republic, the lack of the Elbe and the Rhine has revealed a warning from the past that was almost forgotten: the Hunger Stones. Called Hungersteine ​​in German, the stones are carved with warnings, in some cases centuries old, related to the danger of famine brought by low river levels in the past.

As Europe’s rivers dry up in a devastating drought that scientists say could be the worst in 500 years, their receding waters reveal long-hidden artefacts, from Roman camps to ghost towns and WWII shipwrecks. World War.

The so-called “hunger stone” at Děčín is one of the dozens carved into central European rivers to mark their levels during historic droughts and to warn future generations of famine and hardship likely to follow whenever it becomes visible.

“If you see me, cry,” says the ominous inscription on some of the stones that can be seen again and are part of a tradition that dates back to the fifteenth century. That phrase appears, for example, on a stone found in the Elbe River, dating from 1616. “Drought brings out a grim warning about famine, a message from our 15th-century ancestors,” journalist Olaf Koens tweeted.

What are the hunger stones?

Hunger stones, ohungsteine in German, are a common hydrological marker in central Europe. They date back to the pre-instrumental era.

Christian Pfister, climate historian and professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland, noted in an academic paper published in 2010:

…On the other hand, a number of pre-instrumental low-tide indicators are known for that region. Indicator rocks are known from the Rhine and Lake Constance… Local indicator rocks, called hunger stones (“Hungersteine”) are known from many rivers…

Hydrological Winter Droughts Over the Last 450 Years in the Upper Rhine Basin: A Methodological Approach was published in the Hydrological Sciences Journal.

“Occasionally, people preserved the memory of rare low-tide events by carving the year into rocks emerging from rivers and lakes.

The stones with the registry of deficiencies appear not only in Germany but also in what is today the Czech Republic. An example of the Famine Stones, found on the left bank of the Elbe River, shows various dates with the years of hardship and the initials of authors lost to history. The stone commemorates droughts in the years: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, 1893 and 1900. This reminds us that droughts hitting Europe are not new, What is new is the frequency. This stone was last seen in 2019, and now in 2022—just three years between drought and drought.

The Hunger Stones are a hydrological monument found in some Central European rivers that are revealed when the water level drops. The stones, dating from the 15th to the 19th century, were embedded in dry riverbeds to warn people in the future that difficult times might be near.

Some stones also feature watermarks detailing the dates of previous droughts, providing historians and researchers with some tantalizing primary evidence.

Currently, the problem is not so much the threat that the drought implies for agriculture as the problems that the low level of the rivers brings to river transport. According to the Confederation of German Industry (BDI), it is a problem for supply chains, which can affect all economic activity.

In addition to the complications for the industry, the drought and the low level of the rivers represent an ecological threat. The increase in water temperature and the low level of rivers create, according to experts, a toxic combination for fish and other animals.

“We have little water in the Rhine due to the drought. In addition, we have high temperatures in the water and the combination of the two factors is somewhat toxic for the inhabitants of the Rhine,” climate expert Karsten Brandt told Der Spiegel magazine.

According to Brandt, what is happening is what the climate change models have been announcing for years, although for some time there has been hoping that Germany and Central Europe would be less affected by the crisis.

You can connect with Ground Report on FacebookTwitterKoo AppInstagram, and Whatsapp and Subscribe to our YouTube channel. For suggestions and writeups mail us at GReport2018@gmail.com

%d bloggers like this: