Hunger stone

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A hunger stone near Decin

A hunger stone (German: Hungerstein) is a type of hydrological landmark common in Central Europe. Hunger stones serve as famine memorials and warnings and were erected in Germany and in ethnic German settlements throughout Europe in the 15th through 19th centuries.

These stones were embedded into a river during droughts to mark the water level as a warning to future generations that they will have to endure famine-related hardships if the water sinks to this level again. One famous example in the Elbe river in Děčín, Czech Republic, has "Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine" (lit. "If you see me, weep") carved into it as a warning.[1]

Many of these stones, featuring carvings or other artwork, were erected following the hunger crisis of 1816–1817 caused by the eruptions of the Tambora volcano.[2]

In 1918, a hunger stone on the bed of the Elbe River, near Tetschen, became exposed during a period of low water coincident to the wartime famines of World War I.[3] Similar hunger stones in the river were uncovered again during a drought in 2018.[4]

Known hunger stones[edit]

River Location Notes Picture
Elbe Děčín (Tetschen)

left riverbank, near the Tyrs bridge

50°46′54″N 14°12′26″E / 50.781679°N 14.207115°E / 50.781679; 14.207115 (Hungerstein Decin)

The stone measures approximately 6 m³ and is carved with different years of drought. The oldest readable carving is from 1616, with older carvings (1417 and 1473) having been wiped out by anchoring ships during the years. The stone also features the Czech sentence „Neplač holka, nenaříkej, když je sucho, pole stříkej“ (lit. "Girl, don't weep and moan, if it's dry, water the field"), probably added in 1938.[5] This hunger stone is one of the oldest hydrological landmarks in the Elbe river. Hungerstein in Děčín
Elbe Tichlowitz near Děčín Stone with the number 1666 (Roman: MDCLXVI)
Elbe Tichlowitz near Děčín

50°42′20″N 14°11′50″E / 50.705692°N 14.197161°E / 50.705692; 14.197161 (Hungerstein Techlovice)

Stone with multiple years: 1892, 1903, 1904, 1911, 1928, 1963, 2015 etc. Hungerstein in Techlovice
Elbe Dolní Žleb, part of Děčín

50°50′57″N 14°12′58″E / 50.849096°N 14.216029°E / 50.849096; 14.216029 (Hungerstein Dolni Zleb)

Approximately ten stones with the years 1842, 1868, 1892, 1904, 2015[6] Hungerstein in Niedergrund
Elbe Schmilka, near the border crossing[7]
Elbe Prossen, beneath former train conductor's house Five years between 1928 and 2015 are carved on a skewed stone plate[7]
Elbe Königstein, near the village Year 1681
Elbe Königstein, left riverbank near the Biela river

50°55′12″N 14°04′20″E / 50.919913°N 14.072226°E / 50.919913; 14.072226 (Hungerstein Königstein)

Years 1952, 2003, 2015 Hungerstein in Königstein
Elbe Stadt Wehlen, district of Pötzscha

50°56′58″N 14°01′02″E / 50.949355°N 14.017302°E / 50.949355; 14.017302 (Hungerstein Wehlen)

Year 1868[7] Wehlener Hungerstein im Ortsteil Pötzscha
Elbe Pirna, district Oberposta, right riverbank According to the city archives, a stone with the year 1115 existed but its location is no longer known. Near Oberposta there is a stone with more than fifteen years between 1707 and 2015 carved into it Hungerstein in Pirna
Elbe Dresden-Pillnitz, near the stairs of Pillnitz Castle's western sphinx

51°00′30″N 13°52′09″E / 51.008237°N 13.869039°E / 51.008237; 13.869039 (Hungerstein Pillnitz)

Years: 1778, 1893, 1904, 2003, 2018. Hungerstein in Pillnitz
Elbe Dresden-Laubegast

51°01′24″N 13°50′29″E / 51.023416°N 13.841373°E / 51.023416; 13.841373 (Hungerstein Laubegast)

Years: 1893, 1899, 2003, 2015. Hungersteine in Laubegast
Elbe Dresden-Tolkewitz, near Tolkewitzer Street 73

51°02′31″N 13°49′04″E / 51.041975°N 13.817859°E / 51.041975; 13.817859 (Hungerstein Tolkewitz)

Year: 2016. Tolkewitzer Hungerstein
Elbe Dresden-Blasewitz 2 by 2 meter stone near kilometer 48.7 with years: 1930, 1943, 1947, 1950, 1963 etc.
Elbe Radebeul-Kötzschenbroda, near the steam ship port

51°06′12″N 13°37′22″E / 51.103230°N 13.622900°E / 51.103230; 13.622900 (Hungerstein Radebeul-Kötzschenbroda)

Year 1811[8] Radebeuler Hungerstein
Elbe Meißen Was recorded by Johann Friedrich Usinus to have been spotted in 1746 bearing the carving of the year 1654[9]
Elbe Torgau, on the right side near the destroyed bridge Can be seen at a water level of 50 cm or lower Hungersteine in Torgau
Elbe Schönebeck (Elbe), near kilometer 311 on the right riverbank Measuring 1,5 by 1,5 by 2 meters and weighing 10 tons Hungerstein in Schönebeck
Elbe Schönebeck (Elbe), museum of the city (formerly in the port) 47 cm in size, year: 1904 Hungerstein im Kreismuseum Schönebeck
Elbe Westerhüsen, part of Magdeburg

52°03′25″N 11°41′10″E / 52.056913°N 11.686170°E / 52.056913; 11.686170 (Hungersteine bei Westerhüsen, Magdeburg)

see Hungerstones near Westerhülsen [de] Hungersteine bei Westerhüsen
Elbe Magdeburg, Domfelsen

52°07′22″N 11°38′12″E / 52.12265°N 11.63668°E / 52.12265; 11.63668 (Domfelsen, auch Hungerfelsen, Magdeburg)

Red sandstone formation near Domfelsen,also called Hungerfelsen (lit. "hunger cliff"); carved 2018 in August Domfelsen Magdeburg
Elbe Bleckede, near the ferry port Kilometer 550. Carved with the sentence: Geht dieser Stein unter, wird das Leben wieder bunter (lit. When this stone sinks, life will become more colorful again) [10]
Moselle Traben-Trarbach-Litzig, left riverside
Mündesee Angermünde, north of the village
Rhine Worms-Rheindürkheim, near kilometer 449.4 on the left riverbank Several stones, years ranging from 1857 to 2009 Hungerstein im September 2003 im Rhein bei Worms-Rheindürkheim
Weser Near Hajen, on the left riverbank Red sandstone that was smoothed by the river Hajener Hungerstein
Weser Würgassen 3 m³ hunger stone with the years 1800, 1840, 1842, 1847, 1850, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1865, 1874, 1876, 1881, 1911, 1922, 1934 and 1959[11]

Common years[edit]

Year Number of
hunger stones marked
1115 1
1417 1
1461 1
1616 1
1654 1
1666 1
1681 1
1707 2
1746 1
1778 1
1790 1
1800 2
1811 2
1830 1
1840 1
1842 3
1847 1
1850 1
1857 2
1858 1
1859 1
1865 1
1868 2
1874 1
1876 1
1881 1
1892 3
1893 3
1899 1
1903 1
1904 5
1911 2
1921 2
1922 1
1928 2
1930 1
1934 1
1943 1
1947 2
1950 1
1952 1
1959 2
1963 3
1971 1
2003 3
2009 1
2015 7
2016 1
2018 6

References[edit]

  1. ^ Damonoske, Camila (2018-08-24). "Drought In Central Europe Reveals Cautionary 'Hunger Stones' In Czech River". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  2. ^ Lederer, David. German History in Global and Transnational Perspective, Springer. Aug. 8, 2017. pp. 24
  3. ^ Associated Press. "'Hunger Stone' appears," The New York Times. Aug. 1, 1918. pp. 1
  4. ^ Dockrill, Peter. "Sinister 'Hunger Stones' With Dire Warnings Have Been Surfacing in Europe". Science Alert. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Labe je 24 centimetrů pod hladinou sucha, odhalilo všechny hladové kameny". iDNES.cz. 2018-07-25. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  6. ^ "Vysychající koryto Labe odkrývá na Děčínsku hladové kameny". iDNES.cz. 2016-09-12. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  7. ^ a b c Riegel, Nancy (2018-08-02). "Die stillen Zeugen der Elbe". Sächsische Zeitung. Archived from the original on 2018-08-02. Retrieved 2018-08-02. (Subscription required (help)).
  8. ^ "Zeuge schlechter Zeiten". SZ-Online (in German). 2018-08-11. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  9. ^ Johann Friedrich Ursinus: Collektania zur Geschichte der Stadt und des Landes Meißen, 1790.
  10. ^ "Bleckede: Schwindende Elbe legt Hungerstein frei | Deutschland News". aktnach.org. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  11. ^ Karl Löbe: Das Weserbuch. Roman eines Flusses. Hameln: Verlag C. W. Niemeyer. 1968