The severe droughts that are plaguing many parts of the world are altering life as we know it. Even though the climate crisis and the warming planet may end our civilization, the silver lining is that it’s led to the resurfacing of archaeological treasures that may have remained secret otherwise.
Here are some of the most fascinating finds that have appeared in the world’s dried-up rivers.
Italy: ancient piers of Nero’s Bridge
The water levels of the Tiber river that runs through central Italy have shrunk quickly thanks to the country’s worst drought in 70 years. This means that both ancient piers of Nero’s bridge have emerged into view.
The famous bridge was built in the first century so that Nero could reach his Janiculum Hill gardens, which were located close to what is now St. Peter’s Square. In the third century, the piers fell into disrepair.
It is not unusual to see one of the piers during Italy’s driest season, however, seeing both of them is rare.
As historian Anthony Majanlahti says, “because the water level of the river is so low now due to the widespread drought across Italy, we’re able to see a lot more of the piers of the bridge than we usually could.”
Serbia: Nazi warships along the Danube
This year, the Danube, Europe’s second largest river, is close to reaching record low water levels caused by drought. The lowering water levels revealed an entire fleet of sunken Nazi warships.
Spain: the Dolmen of Guadelperal
The Dolmen of Guadelperal, a configuration of 150 granite stones in the Valecañas reservoir known as the “Spanish Stonehenge,” has popped up to the surface as water levels recede.
The stone circle was submerged by the flooding that one of General Franco’s rural development projects required in 1963. Since it was first immersed in water, the megalithic monument has only been visible four times.
Germany: Hunger stones along the Rhine
“Hunger stones” are rocks with engravings that are usually found in Central Europe. The engravings are meant to act as low-level water warnings for future generations and monumentalize hardships like famine and drought. On the most recently discovered stones, the years 1947, 1959, 2003, and 2018 have been carved.
Italy: A WWII bomb in the Po
The receding waters of the Po, Italy’s longest-running river, have revealed an extraordinary discovery: an unexploded World War II bomb. Fortunately, the Italian Army was able to safely detonate the bomb.
Iraq: Mitanni Empire’s lost city
Remarkably, a whole Bonze Age city has been exposed in the Mosul Dam. The newly discovered archaeological site is dated back to approximately 3,400 years and was once an important city in the Mitanni Empire.
The dropping water levels of the Mosul Dam were not directly caused by dry weather— the government was forced to drain the Mosul Dam’s reservoir in an effort to save the country’s dying crops.
China: Island discovery in the Yangtze
China is currently facing a 70-day heatwave and continuous drought. This is drying up many rivers in the country, including the Yangtze, where an entire island with three ancient statues has surfaced.
UK: Crystal Palace dinosaur sculpture
Visitors at the Crystal Palace park were treated to a glimpse of newly exposed sculptures of dinosaurs in its lake. According to an organization focused on protecting these historic sculptures, Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs, the lack of rain, and a failure to dredge regularly were the reasons behind the drying up of the lake.
USA: Dinosaur tracks in Texas
A drought in Texas that died up the Paluxey River revealed astonishing dinosaur tracks that were submerged for around 113 million years.