Weeks of baking heat and no rainfall across Europe have caused water levels in rivers and lakes to fall to levels few can remember, revealing long-submerged treasures – and some dangerous hazards.p
In Spain, archaeologists have been elated by the disclosure of a prehistoric stone circle named the “Spanish Stonehenge” that used to be covered by waters of a dam that have fallen in the worst drought in years.
Publicly known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the stone circle presently sits totally visible in one corner of the Valdecanas reservoir, in the central province of Caceres, where authorities state the water level has fallen to 28 percent of capacity.
The stone circle was discovered by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in 1926, but the region was flooded in 1963 in a rural development project under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. Since then it has only become fully exposed four times.
Another of Europe’s mighty rivers, the Danube, has dropped to one of its lowest levels in almost a century also as a result of the drought, revealing the hulks of over 20 German warships drown during World War II near Serbia’s river port town of Prahovo.
The ships were among hundreds scuttled along the Danube by Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet in 1944 as they withdrew from advancing Soviet forces. The drowned ships still hamper river traffic during low water levels.
Italy has announced a state of emergency for regions around the River Po, and in late July a formerly submerged 450kg (1,000-pound) World War II bomb was unveiled in the low-running waters of the country’s longest river.
About 3,000 people residing near the northern village of Borgo Virgilio, close to the city of Mantua, were moved while military experts detonated and carried out a controlled explosion of the US-manufactured device previously this month.
Memories of past droughts have also been revived in Germany by the reappearance of so-called “hunger stones” along the Rhine river. 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 past droughts.
Dates visible on stones seen in Worms, south of Frankfurt, and Rheindorf, near Leverkusen, included 1947, 1959, 2003 and 2018.