Europe’s severe drought is exposing ancient artefacts from ‘Stonehenge of Spain’ to Emperor Nero’s bridge

Europe’s severe drought is exposing ancient artefacts from ‘Stonehenge of Spain’ to Emperor Nero’s bridge

Dolmen Guadalperal, also sometimes called

The Dolmen of Guadalperal, also known as the “Stonehenge of Spain” is seen above the water level at the Valdecanas reservoir, on July 28, 2022.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Severe drought continues to shrink lakes, streams, and reservoirs across Europe. One unexpected side effect: It’s uncovering long underwater traces of the past.

Since the beginning of 2022, Europe has experienced a long period of unusually high temperatures and a lack of rain. By August, 47% of the continent was in drought warning conditions, marked by a lack of soil moisture and negative effects on vegetation, according to the Global Drought Observatory. Andrea Toreti, a senior researcher at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, told Sky News in August that the drought could be Europe’s worst in 500 years.

A growing body of research, including the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggests that droughts like the one sweeping Europe are becoming more severe as climate change pushes the temperatures to new extremes.

From megalithic monuments to ancient bridges, Europe’s 2022 drought is still bringing sites and artefacts to light.

Dolmen Guadalperal, also sometimes called

Guadalperal dolmen, normally submerged, in Spain’s Valdecanas reservoir during a drought, on July 28, 2022.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

In late July, water levels in Spain’s Valdecanas reservoir dropped to 28% of its capacity, exposing the Guadalperal Dolmen, known as the “Stonhenge of Spain,” Reuters reported.

“It’s a surprise, it’s a rare opportunity to be able to access it,” Enrique Cedillo, an archaeologist from the Complutense University of Madrid, told Reuters. Cedillo wants to study the resurfaced monument before it is submerged again.

The Dolmen of Guadalperal is made of many megalithic stones believed to date to 5000 BC. It was discovered by a German archaeologist in 1926 and is usually under water due to the creation of the reservoir in 1963. Since then, it has only been fully visible four times.

“All my life, people had told me about the dolmen,” Angel Castaño, president of the local cultural association Raíces de Peralêda, told Atlas Obscura in 2019, when the monument last came to light due to low levels water. “I’ve seen parts of it peeking out from the water before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in its entirety. It’s amazing because you can appreciate the whole complex for the first time in decades.”

A view of the 'hunger stone', which dates back to 1616.

A view of the “hunger stone,” which dates back to 1616, revealed by low water levels in the Elbe River, between the Czech Republic and Germany, in 2018.Reuters

In August, the Miami Herald reported that centuries-old boulders, known as “hunger stones,” reappeared as rivers in Europe dried up due to drought.

One such stone has resurfaced on the banks of the Elbe River, which begins in the Czech Republic and flows through Germany. The boulder dates back to 1616 and is etched with a warning in German: “Wenn du mich seehst, dann weine” – “If you see me, weep,” according to a translation from a 2013 study.

In the study, a team of Czech researchers wrote that these boulders were “chiselled by years of hardship,” adding, “the underlying inscriptions warned of the consequences of drought.”

“It showed that drought brought bad harvests, lack of food, high prices and hunger for poor people,” the researchers wrote. “Prior to 1900, the following droughts are commemorated on the stone: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, and 1893.”

The barge was sunk by the Germans during the Second World War in 1943 and fully resurfaced due to the worst drought since the seventies which is affecting the Po river and the entire Po valley.

A World War II-era barge resurfaced in Italy’s River Po, seen on 27 July 2022.Nicola Marfisi/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Italy’s Po River – the largest in the country – is facing its worst drought in 70 years. In June, when water levels dropped due to the severe drought, the sunken wreck of a World War II barge resurfaced. The 160-foot barge, known as the Zibello, carried lumber during World War II, and sank in 1943, CBS News reported.

Unexploded bombs from the Second World War are seen on dry waters in Italy's Po river on August 4, 2022.

Unexploded bombs from the Second World War are seen on the dry banks of Italy’s Po River, on 4 August 2022.Nicola Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images

In late July, fishermen came upon a 1,000-pound, previously submerged bomb from World War II along a drought-stricken Italian river, according to Reuters.

“​​​​Fishermen found the bomb on the banks of the Po River due to a drop in water levels due to drought,” a local official told Reuters. About 3,000 people living nearby were evacuated so that military experts could safely remove the bomb.

The ruins of the ancient Roman Neronian bridge rise from the bed of the Tiber river, in Rome, Monday, August 22, 2022.

The ruins of an ancient Roman bridge emerged from the riverbed of the Tiber River, in Rome, on 22 August 2022.AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia

A bridge built during the rule of the Roman Emperor Nero in the first century suffered a severe drought in August. The bridge is usually submerged under the waters of the Tiber River in Italy.

According to Anthony Majanlahti, a historian, it is believed that the bridge originally had four piers, but two were dismantled in the 19th century. One of the piers of the bridge is often seen in the drier parts of the year. This year, however, there are two to be seen, according to The Associated Press.

“Because the water level of the river is so low now due to a widespread drought across Italy, we are able to see much more of the bridge piers than we normally could,” Majanlahti told the Associated Press.

Overview of the ancient underwater village of Aceredo in Spain.  Picture taken February 10, 2022.

Overview of the ancient submerged village of Aceredo in Spain, on February 10, 2022.REUTERS/Miguel Vidal

This spring, a once-flooded village in Spain resurfaced after a drought drained a dam on the border between Spain and Portugal. The village of Aceredo in the Galicia region of northwestern Spain was flooded in 1992 to create the Alto Lindoso reservoir, and the recently uncovered ruins are attracting tourists who want to see the ancient village after many years under water.

But some locals say it’s a worrying sign of what’s to come in a warming world.

“It’s like I’m watching a movie. I feel sad,” Maximino Perez Romero, 65, from the area, told Reuters. “My feeling is that this is going to happen over the years because of drought and all that, with climate change.”

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