When context is essential: “Starvation stones” go viral, however information first broke in 2018
Tales have been circling across the Web this previous week in regards to the re-emergence in sure Czech and German rivers of so-called “starvation stones“—rocks embedded in rivers throughout droughts to mark the water degree and warn future generations of the seemingly famine and hardship to return at any time when the stones turned seen once more. The protection has been fueled largely by an August 11 tweet noting one stone specifically, inscribed with a dire warning: “If you happen to see me, weep.”
Starvation stones (hungerstein) are very a lot an actual factor with a protracted and interesting historical past. And Europe is within the midst of a traditionally extreme drought—extreme sufficient that water ranges could certainly be sufficiently low for the stones to re-emerge as soon as extra. However that August 11 tweet and the associated protection are literally rehashing a sequence of stories tales from 2018, when the re-emergence of the starvation stones within the midst of that 12 months’s excessive drought in Europe made headlines.
It is hardly an egregious case of misinformation, however it does present an illustrative instance of why together with context is so vital within the digital age—even in a comparatively easy tweet enthusing about newly acquired information.
The current droughts in Europe as soon as once more made seen the “Starvation Stones” in some Czech and German rivers. These stones had been used to mark desperately low river ranges that will forecast famines.
This one, within the Elbe river, is from 1616 and says: “If you happen to see me, cry” pic.twitter.com/uJTapWXN5y
— Shoko Asahara Appreciation Consortium (@Citizen09372364) August 11, 2022
The stone referenced within the August 11 tweet is situated on the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic—one of many oldest such landmarks within the area. The earliest readable inscribed date is 1616, however older carvings marking the droughts of 1417 and 1473 had been worn out by anchoring ships over the centuries. Different drought years carved within the stone embody 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, and 1893. It is really potential to see this specific stone some 126 days out of the 12 months, because of the development of a dam that was constructed on a tributary of the Elbe in 1926.
The stone additionally options an inscription seemingly added in 1938: “Neplač holka, nenaříkej, když je sucho, pole stříkej” (“Woman, do not weep and moan, if it is dry, water the sector”). One other Elbe stone might be discovered close to Bleckede, with the inscription Geht dieser Stein unter, wird das Leben wieder bunter (“When this stone goes beneath, life will grow to be extra colourful once more”).
A 2013 paper inspecting the historical past of drought within the Czech area from 1090 to 2012 relied partially on starvation stones as “epigraphic knowledge” of previous droughts, supplementing proof gleaned from annals, chronicles, diaries, tax paperwork, spiritual data, letters, printed manuscripts, and fashionable instrumental knowledge. (Apparently in 1393, the drought was so extreme it was potential to cross the River Vltava on its mattress, and the water was “as inexperienced as grass.”)
Frankly, that paper is price studying only for the historic anecdote regarding a priest named Prokop Diviš, identified for serendipitously developing one of many earliest grounded lightning rods. Diviš arrange his “climate instrument” at his parsonage in June 1754. It was composed of a number of tin packing containers and greater than 400 steel spikes, and Diviš thought it might drive off storms. (The scientific neighborhood on the time was lower than impressed along with his theories.)
5 years later, within the fall of 1759, native villagers demanded Diviš take away it, satisfied that it had been the reason for that summer time’s drought. The authors counsel the priest’s private enemies had riled up the gang. The next March, the villagers broke the chains holding the instrument down, and a thunderstorm the next evening knocked it over. However their victory was short-lived. There have been so many thunderstorms that summer time, damaging the fields and vineyards, that the villagers requested him to re-install his climate instrument. “His response was not constructive,” the authors wrote.
When Central Europe was but once more besieged by drought in 2018, the Elbe plummeted to its lowest ranges in additional than half a century, and information tales started circulating in regards to the re-emergence of a few of the starvation stones. The Related Press, NPR, Smithsonian, and Atlas Obscura had been among the many retailers that coated the story.
So why has the story re-emerged now? Kim LaCapria, writing at Reality or Fiction, thinks it began with an August 10 submit to the subreddit r/todayilearned, linking to the Wikipedia entry on starvation stones “merely as a focal point.” Maybe not coincidentally, two days earlier than that, low-water ranges in Lake Mead as a result of excessive megadrought resulted within the discovery of one more set of human stays—the fourth physique discovered to this point. So, as conversations about drought and local weather change circulated within the ether, they created the proper situations to reignite curiosity within the starvation stones, sparking a recent flurry of stories tales—like this one.
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Enlarge / A starvation stone within the Elbe River in Děčín, Czech Republic. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been worn out by anchoring ships over time. Tales have been circling across the Web this previous week in regards to the re-emergence in sure Czech and German…