Human Remains, Ancient Ruins, and More Revealed By Climate Change and Drought

Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain

Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain by Pleonr (CC BY-SA)

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Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain
Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain by Pleonr (CC BY-SA)

Blasts From the Past

From extreme heat to severe drought to flooding, the effects of climate change have steadily produced troubling ripple effects around the globe, including food insecurity and natural disasters. Droughts have also prompted the past to bubble to the surface as dwindling rivers and lakes reveal what lies beneath, uncovering relics from decades — and even centuries — ago, such as ancient ruins, statues, human remains, and more.

Related: Natural Wonders to Appreciate Before They're Gone

Skeleton remains of human looking to the side

A Native American Burial Ground

After Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc in southwestern Florida, Hurricane Nicole has washed away the sands of still-vulnerable Chastain Beach, revealing what appears to be an American Indian burial ground. As the beach eroded, law enforcement discovered six skulls close together, along with what seemed to be leg and arm bones. A medical examiner believes the bones are at least 200 years old and Martin County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy John Budensiek told Newsweek that the remains are likely from members of the Ais tribe, which populated eastern Florida in the 1700s.

RelatedThe Most Endangered Historic Places Across America

Low water level at Lake Mead in summer of 2021

Volcanic Rock

Lake Mead, Arizona and Nevada
In addition to exposing some creepier things, the extremely low water levels in Lake Mead have unearthed something else in the manmade lake — 12-million-year-old volcanic rock. Researchers found volcanic ash inside the exposed rocks in the lake, evidence of several volcanic blasts that took place millions of years ago. They also found ash from more recent eruptions — 32,000 years ago.

Related: 30 Beautiful Road Trips That Celebrate American History

Remains of the grammar school in Old Kernville, CA
Remains of the grammar school in Old Kernville, CA by Kvpics (CC BY-SA)

Old West Ghost Town

Old Kernville, California

What was once the setting for a handful of classic Westerns became an underwater town and distant memory, that is, until it resurfaced after extreme drought in California. Formerly called Whiskey Flat, Old Kernville is a former mining town situated in the hills of Lake Isabella and the Kern River. Despite being the backdrop for 1939's Oscar-winning "Stagecoach," the ghost town — whose streets were once walked by the likes of John Wayne and Gene Autry — is pretty unrecognizable now. With only a lone tumbleweed missing, the current scene is both eerie and mystifying.

Related: The 40 Best Places in America to Travel Back in Time

Lake Mead at Hoover Dam
Lake Mead at Hoover Dam by Tony Webster (CC BY-SA)

Human Remains and World War II Wreckage

Lake Mead, Arizona and Nevada
It sounds like something out of a mystery novel: Since May 2022, there have been five separate discoveries of human remains made at Lake Mead. The reservoir, which runs through Nevada and Arizona, has fallen victim to the summer’s water crisis, and revealed not only human remains but the wreckage of a World War II boat. So far, it’s unclear whether the remains are connected to one another, but at least one of the victims met a grisly end: Skeletal remains from a discovery on May 1 were determined to come from a person who was shot and thrown into the lake in the late 1970s or early 1980s. 

Nineveh, Iraq
Nineveh, Iraq by UNESCO (CC BY-SA)

A Bronze Age City

Mosul Dam, Nineveh, Iraq

The brutal drought over the summer revealed the remains of a 3,400-year-old city in Iraq’s Mosul Dam. The settlement, which is usually engulfed by the Tigris River, was an important hub during the Mittani Empire (1550 to 1350 B.C.) and likely connected core regions of the territory. Though the Bronze Age city was partially destroyed in a 1350 B.C. earthquake, remnants withstood time, and the drought uncovered segments of a palace and fort, with walls made from sun-dried mud bricks. That’s not the only thing that was uncovered: Five ceramic vessels containing tablets were also left behind, and remain fairly intact despite being underwater for so long.

Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas
Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas by Diane Turner (CC BY)

113-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tracks

Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas

The prehistoric past resurfaced front and center at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas over the summer when a serious drought revealed 113-million-year-old dinosaur tracks in the park’s Paluxy River. It’s been more than 20 years since the prints were last visible, in a series of tracks dubbed the "Lone Ranger trackway.” The uncovered tracks belong to the Acrocanthosaurus, a dinosaur that walked on two legs and had three clawed toes on each foot. Other tracks in the park come from a 44-ton Sauroposeidon.

Yangtze River, Chongqing, China
Yangtze River, Chongqing, China by 山城崽儿 (CC BY)

600-Year-Old Buddhist Statues

Yangtze River, Chongqing, China

In August 2022, a trio of Buddhist statues was discovered in the Yangtze River in China’s southwestern city of Chongqing after a severe drought and heatwave resulted in 45% less rainfall than the previous month. The river revealed a submerged island alongside the three statues, which are estimated to be about 600 years old and built during the Qing and Ming dynasties. The tallest statue, at 95 centimeters (about 3 feet), depicts a monk sitting on a lotus pedal — very zen, considering the current climate crisis.

Danube River

World War II German Battleships

Danube River, Prahovo, Serbia

The summer of 2022 saw the resurfacing of World War II battleships in the Danube River. Near the port of Prahovo, Serbia, the rusty relics of German battleships became visible as water levels dropped, allowing spectators to get a glimpse of a hull, an upper deck, a broken mast, and other components of Nazi Germany’s Black Sea fleet. The Germans sank up to 200 of these ships during their retreat from Romania in an effort to slow down approaching Soviet forces (Spoiler alert: It didn’t work). Since then, the sunken ships have proven to be a hindrance for traffic along the Danube, and plans are underway to remove roughly 20 sunken ships from the river’s floor.

Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain
Dolmen of Guadalperal, Caceres, Spain by Pleonr (CC BY-SA)

An Ancient 'Spanish Stonehenge'

Valdecañas Reservoir, Caceres, Spain

The Dolmen of Guadalperal, also known as Spanish Stonehenge, has long been submerged in the Valdecañas Reservoir, with origins dating back to 5,000 B.C. But a 2022 drought resulted in the reemergence of the prehistoric stone circle, which has been fully visible only four times since it disappeared in a flood in 1963. The structure is composed of dolmens, or vertical stones that often hold up a flat boulder. While it’s not clear what their purpose is, some have speculated that they are related to tombs.

Tiber River, Rome
Tiber River, Rome by Ruben Holthuijsen (CC BY)

A First-Century Roman Bridge

Tiber River, Rome

Rome has ancient bridges in spades, but there’s always room for one more. Over the summer, two piers of Nero’s Bridge in the Tiber River were made visible, thanks to Italy’s worst drought in 70 years. The ruins, located near the Vittorio Emanuele bridge, aren’t much — just a pile of rocks that are now covered in moss. But they were built during the first century as a way for Emperor Nero to access his gardens near present-day St. Peter’s Square, and eventually started to crumble by the third century. Romans can usually get a glimpse of one of the bridge’s piers, but with water levels as low as they are, a second pier is now above the water line.

Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales
Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA)

A 19th-Century Village

Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, Wales

Record-breaking temperatures across the U.K. during the summer of 2022 resulted in the resurfacing of Llanwddyn, a 19th century Welsh village previously submerged in the Lake Vyrnwy reservoir. Parts of the village are remarkably intact, including gate posts, roads, walls, and houses, as well as additional ruins that encompass a church, chapels, inns, and farmhouses. Completed in 1891, Lake Vyrnwy was built to supply fresh water to Liverpool, England, and was at one point the largest artificial reservoir in Europe. It isn’t the first time Llanwddyn has been spotted; parts of the village made an appearance in 1976, when Lake Vyrnwy was in the midst of another drought.

Sau Reservoir, Vilanova de Sau, Spain
Sau Reservoir, Vilanova de Sau, Spain by joan ggk (CC BY)

An 11th-Century Church and Village

Sau Reservoir, Vilanova de Sau, Spain

In normal times, the only part of Sant Roma de Sau that can be seen is the church’s bell tower. But these aren't normal times. A drought revealed the ruins of a church within Sant Roma de Sau, an 11th century village that originally flooded in the 1960s after the construction of a nearby dam. The reemergence has caused tourists to flock to the nearby town of Vilanova de Sau, though they can’t get too close since the area is fenced off in case of collapse.