Longest Polish river reveals secrets amid drought

WARSAW: Archeologists are having a field day in Poland´s longest river, the Vistula, which because of a drought has hit a record low water level allowing them to uncover a treasure trove of ancient artifacts.


“There are pieces of marble and stoneware and fragments of fountains, window sills, columns, concrete slabs, cannonballs,” said Hubert Kowalski, a researcher at Warsaw University´s archeological institute.

Dressed in orange and green rubber hip waders, the archeologists slosh around the Vistula, whose level has fallen to just 40 centimetres (16 inches) in downtown Warsaw the lowest in over 200 years.

Armed with detectors of all sorts, sonars and sub-bottom profilers tools for identifying layers of sediment they search for curious objects from aboard their inflatable boat.

The large sandbanks poking out of the water give the river the air of a barren desert landscape. But for the archeologists, it´s paradise.

Even the bulldozers are able to follow them into areas that are normally off limits for the heavy machines.

Using water pumps borrowed from firemen, the archeologists remove layers of sand and pebbles to retrieve their treasures, sometimes with the help of cranes when the objects prove too heavy.

“It´s mainly fragments of carved stones that the Swedes tried to steal in the 17th century during their 1656 invasion,” Kowalski told AFP.

“But they failed to get them out of the country because the Vistula´s water level was too low” to keep their boats afloat.