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Drought Reveals Medieval “Hunger Stones” in European Rivers

“When you see me, cry”. This is just one of the ominous messages carved into the medieval ‘hunger stones’ that have been revealed by sever drought in the Elbe River, near the northern Czech town of Decin.

Hunger stones, or ‘hungersteine’ as the Germans call them, are carved boulders or river plates that only become visible in severe droughts, when water levels drop particularly low. The inscriptions chiselled into them are believed to have once been used to warn people that hard times and famine were coming. The Elbe river, which starts in the Czech Republic and flows into Germany features dozens of hunger stones with inscriptions dating back to the 17th century, but other European rivers feature such ominous stones with carvings from as early as 1417.

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