skip to main content

European drought exposes some long-submerged ancient treasures

Weeks of baking drought across Europe have seen water levels in rivers and lakes fall to levels few can remember, exposing long-submerged treasures - and some unwanted hazards.

In Spain, suffering its worst drought in decades, archaeologists have been delighted by the emergence of a prehistoric stone circle dubbed the "Spanish Stonehenge" that is usually covered by dam waters.

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

It was discovered by German archaeologist Hugo Obermaier in1926, but the area was flooded in 1963 in a rural development project under Francisco Franco's dictatorship.

The Dolmen of Guadalperal in Spain are now visible again

Since then it has only become fully visible four times.

Memories of past droughts have also been rekindled in Germany by the reappearance of so-called "hunger stones" along the River Rhine

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 former droughts.

Dates visible on stones seen in Worms, south of Frankfurt, and Rheindorf, near Leverkusen, included 1947, 1959, 2003 and 2018.

Hunger stones in Germany have been exposed by drought

Another of Europe's mighty rivers, the Danube, has fallen to one of its lowest levels in almost a century as a result of the drought, exposing the hulks of more than 20 German warships sunk during World War Two near Serbia's river port town of Prahovo.

The vessels 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 hamper river traffic during low water levels.

Hulk of a German World War Two warship is now visible in Danube

Italy has declared a state of emergency for areas around the River Po, and in late July a previously submerged 450-kg World War Two bomb was discovered in the low-running waters of the country's longest river.

Locals in Borgo Virgilio, Italy had to be evacuated as a World War Two bomb was removed

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

Buddhist statues revealed as Yangtze water levels plunge

Plunging water levels of the Yangtze River have revealed a submerged island in China's southwestern city of Chongqing and a trio of Buddhist statues on it that are believed to be 600 years old, state media Xinhua has reported.

The three statues were found on the highest part of the island reef called Foyeliang, initially identified as built during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

One of the statues depicts a monk sitting on a lotus pedestal.

Buddhist statues revealed by falling water levels in the Yangtze river, China

The Yangtze’s water levels have been falling rapidly due to a drought and a heatwave in China’s southwestern region.

Rainfall in the Yangtze basin has been around 45% lower than normal since July, and high temperatures are likely to persist for at least another week, official forecasts said.

As many as 66 rivers across 34 counties in Chongqing have dried up, state broadcaster CCTV stated.

Weather information and a full 7-day forecast

tester