As heatwaves and droughts continue to grip much of Europe, “hunger stones” from the past have been revealed by the parched rivers and announced a dire warning: “if you can see me, weep.”
Hunger stones are a hydrological monument found in some rivers of Central Europe that are revealed when water levels drop. Dating from the 15th to 19th century, the stones were embedded in dried-up riverbeds to warn people in the future that hard times could be near.
Some stones also feature watermarks detailing the dates of previous droughts, providing historians and researchers with some tantalizing primary evidence.
"It expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices, and hunger for poor people. Before 1900, the following droughts are commemorated on the stone: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, and 1893," geographers from Masaryk University wrote of one of the most famous hunger stones in a 2013 study about droughts in Czech history.
The stone lies in the Elbe river in the northern Czech town of Decin, not far from the German border. Carved into the rock, you can read the words "Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine," which translates to "If you see me, weep." Yikes.
Europe is currently in the midst of the worst drought in 500 years, with almost half of the continent impacted by a severe shortage of rainfall. It’s also been grappling with record-breaking heatwaves this summer.
By no surprise, this searingly hot and dry weather has resulted in the hunger stone reappearing across Germany and the Czech Republic.