Drought in Europe exposes ancient stones, WWII ships as waters fall

Aug 20 (Reuters) – Weeks of scorching drought across Europe have seen water levels in rivers and lakes fall to levels few remember, exposing long-submerged treasures – and some unwanted hazards.

In Spain, which is suffering from its worst drought in decades, archaeologists have been thrilled by the emergence of a prehistoric stone circle dubbed the “Spanish Stonehenge” which is usually covered by water from a dam.

Officially known as the Dolmen of Guadalperal, the stone circle is currently fully exposed in a corner of the Valdecanas reservoir in the central province of Caceres, where authorities say the water level has dropped to 28% of its ability.

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It was discovered by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in 1926, but the area was flooded in 1963 during a rural development project under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Since then, it has only become fully visible four times. Read more

Memories of past droughts have also been revived in Germany by the reappearance of so-called “hunger stones” along the Rhine. Many of these stones have become visible along the banks of Germany’s largest river in recent weeks.

Bearing dates and people’s initials, their reappearance is seen by some as a warning and a reminder of the hardships faced by people during previous droughts. 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 sunk to one of its lowest levels in nearly a century due to drought, exposing the carcasses of more than 20 German warships sunk during the World War II near the Serbian port town of Prahovo.

The ships 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 impede river traffic during low water . Read more

Italy declared a state of emergency for areas around the Po River, and in late July a previously submerged 450 kg (1,000 pound) World War II bomb was discovered in the low waters of the longest country river.

About 3,000 people living near the northern village of Borgo Virgilio near the city of Mantua were evacuated while military experts defused and carried out a controlled explosion of the US-made device earlier this month.

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Reporting by Reuters TV; Written by Alex Richardson; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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