Weathered History

By Leibniz Association

THE
MATERIAL SIDE OF PAST CLIMATE CHANGE: Contemporary and historical climate
change is, in itself, beyond the scale of human perception. What humans could
see in the past and today still can perceive are meteorological extremes:
droughts, heat waves, strong precipitation, floods, cold spells, and storms.
Such extreme events, however, have generally left only indirect evidence in the
material heritage of past human societies. This exhibition, a product of the
Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in
cooperation with the PAGES’s working group CRIAS, presents this legacy to a
wider public. At times surprising objects are witnesses of human memory to
meteorological disasters, but they also show how skillfully historical
societies adapted to climate change.

Climate and Human History by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

Throughout all of its existence, humankind has been confronted with extreme weather and changing climatic conditions. Natural climatic change, however, even in its more rapid phases, proceeded too slowly for human perception. The very idea of a changing climate is linked to relatively recent developments like continuous instrumental measurements on a global scale.

Mappa Mundi: Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius: Commentarius in Ciceronis Somnium Scipionis (early 11th cent., Champagne) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

MAPPA MUNDI

In pre-modern Europe, climate—or, more precisely, climata—meant the different, yet stable five climatic zones of the globe as defined by Hippocrates (460–377 BCE) and Parmenides (515–450 BCE): Latitude determined whether these zones were cool or hot, which in turn exercised—in these philosophers’ minds—a decisive influence on people’s mentalities and, ultimately, on entire human cultures.

These assumptions are at the core of a school of thought called “climate determinism,” which was very influential until the 19th century and is still reflected in popular thinking today.

Martin Bauch

Micronesian weather talisman, called Windmaker "Iios" (before 1900) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

WINDMAKER IlOS

But even if climate has remained abstract and invisible to humans up until the present day, its everyday manifestation on a local, short-term scale—called “weather”—has been of utmost importance to humans since prehistoric times.

It influenced people’s well-being and livelihoods, given agriculture’s dependence on seasonal conditions; it facilitated or hindered their travel. This figure, made from wood and stingray tail spines, was used by sailors on the coral atoll of Woleai in Micronesia as a magical object. They carried it with them and used it to pacify stormy seas and secure their safe return.

Micronesian oral tradition has it that captains threatened the clouds of rising storms with the spines and asked the protective spirits Nunve and Peoolop for better meteorological conditions during their journey. Such efforts to protect themselves from weather or influence conditions are characteristic of all human cultures, a shared heritage of humanity.

Martin Bauch

Ice core drill head from the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) (100000 before present) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information

ICE CORE DRILL HEAD

What we know today about past climatic change relies strongly on so-called “proxy data” that can be retrieved from all kinds of natural archives containing indirect information about climate trends. Ancient ice, for example, contains information about the state and composition of the atmosphere at the time when this ice fell to the earth as snow. The idea of using ice as a climate record emerged in the 1950s and 1960s.

In order to reach the oldest ice, hidden deep down in glaciers, scientists developed drills that could reach thousands of meters into the polar ice sheets and retrieved ice cores covering more than 100,000 years of climate history. Their study showed recent climate anomalies as well as volcanic eruptions and the nuclear bomb tests of the 20th century. Beyond that, the extensive time period enabled scientists to identify both regular climate cycles and abrupt climatic changes in the deep history of the earth. These ice core studies helped to expand the temporal frame of climate science far beyond human time scales.

Dania Achermann

Disaster Memory by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

For most of human history, humans have not conceived of climate as something changeable. Nor did they have  the instruments necessary to perceive a changing climate. What people did perceive and experience, though, were natural disasters, some of which were caused by climate change. Some of these disasters, like large volcanic eruptions, could cause short-term climate changes, while others—like floods and droughts—became more frequent or stronger during periods of rapid climate change. And even during man-made disasters like war, humans perceived weather phenomena and found them worth recording.

The Eruption among the Deer (30–35,000 years before present) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

THE ERUPTION AMONG THE DEER

Discovered in 1994, the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave (Ardèche, France) is associated with the first sustained presence of Homo sapiens in Europe and has yielded some of the earliest manifestations of prehistoric art.

These include the oldest known depictions of a volcanic eruption, embedded in and partly covered over by later giant deer depictions.

The Eruption among the Deer (30–35,000 years before present) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

Recent research suggests that these renderings may record eruptions in the Bas-Vivarais volcanic field (French Massif Central) witnessed by Paleolithic contemporaries.

Some volcanic eruptions, like the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption (36,000 BCE) and the Laacher See eruption (11,000 BCE) are also thought to have had major demographic and culture-historical impacts.

Felix Riede

Testimony of an Irish Oak Tree as Witness to the Great Climatic Anomaly of 536–550 CE (385-644) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

TESTIMONY OF AN IRISH OAK TREE

The sample visualizes this tree’s experience of the famous 6th century climatic anomaly between 536 and c.550 CE. After 536 CE, the rings become hard to discern for several years, indicating bad conditions for tree growth. This climatic disturbance is now believed to have been wrought by a sequence of major explosive volcanic eruptions in 536, 540, and 547 CE that injected sulfur dioxide gas into the high atmosphere to induce dramatic global cooling for over a decade.

These conditions have been linked to accounts of obscured and discolored sunlight, extreme weather, famine, and mass mortality in written sources from Europe to China.

This section from an Irish oak shows the annual growth rings between 385 to 644 CE. The early growth vessels that formed each spring are visible as roughly parallel bands of white dots.

Francis Ludlow

Reliquiary cross from St. Albani, Göttingen (mid 14th century)) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information

RELIQUIARY CROSS FROM ST. ALBANI, GÖTTINGEN

The flood event of July 1342, presumably the largest inundation of Central Europe during the last millennium, affected an area between the Rhône River and Hungary, from the Alps to the lower mountain ranges in central Germany. Torrential rains resulted when a so-called Genoa low, packed with humidity from the Mediterranean, turned north over eastern central Europe.

As a result, the Danube, Rhine, Main, and Elbe, and many of their tributaries, rose above their banks and engulfed huge swaths of central Europe, causing soil erosion, harvest loss, dearth, and the destruction of infrastructure. The event stretched over several weeks, but it is mostly remembered as the Flood of St Mary Magdalene’s Day (July 22).

Hermann the goldsmith is the only individual we know by name as having drowned in this flood in the early decades of the Little Ice Age, for his son, a wealthy citizen of the central German city of Göttingen dedicated this reliquary cross to the memory of his father in the mid-1350s.

Martin Bauch

1540 Steinwein bottle (1540) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

1540 STEINWEIN BOTTLE

There is a tradition in wine history to celebrate extraordinary vintages by keeping some bottles for future generations, for example, in memory of the outstandingly hot and dry summer of 2003. Very rarely, artifacts such as bottles or barrels survive for centuries.

The oldest drinkable wine on earth is the 1540 Steinwein, which allegedly comes from the Würzburger Stein, a vineyard overlooking that German city.

It celebrates the “millenium vintage” of 1540, a year of major drought all over Europe with temperatures likely exceeding those of 2003.

1540 Steinwein bottle (1540) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

These exceptional conditions yielded a spectacularly sweet and cherry-like vintage in many regions. In Würzburg an amount of it was kept in a nicely decorated barrel, regularly filled up with new wine to avoid oxydation.

The remaining wine was bottled at the end of the 17th century and belonged for a while to the cellar of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. In 1961, one of the two remaining bottles was tasted; the wine specialist Hugh Johnson described it as a Madèira-like wine.

Thomas Labbé

Flood marks in Würzburg (14th–19th cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

FLOOD MARKS IN WÜRZBURG

The river Main flows through Würzburg, a southern German town. Throughout the last millennium, the city witnessed several flooding events, some of which are commemorated on the archway entrance to the town hall, located close to the Old Main Bridge. The building (Roter Bau) was finished in 1659, so the marked flood heights were probably taken from historical descriptions.

Flood marks in Würzburg (14th–19th cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

The highest recorded flood event, the St. Mary Magdalene's Flood, took place on July 21, 1342. This rare summer flooding event affected many parts of central Europe.

Flood marks in Würzburg (14th–19th cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

The next flood marker indicates the peak of the Main during the ice drift event of February 29, 1784.

The third mark records the flood of January 27, 1682. The flood event at the very bottom of the archway is that of March 30, 1845. Other high flooding events, such as February 1451 and February 1546, have been left off.

Katrin Kleemann

Rainfall report on "Ng Wah" brand of cigarette paper box (1941) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

RAINFALL REPORT ON "NG WAH" BRAND OF CIGARETTE PAPER BOX

In December 1941, the British colony of Hong Kong fell to the Japanese invading army. The Hong Kong Observatory was a key strategic site for the Japanese forces who took over the premises for the duration of the war.

Many of the staff were imprisoned at the camps subsequently set up in Hong Kong. These prisoners tried to maintain as much of a “normal” life as they could.

Rainfall report on "Ng Wah" brand of cigarette paper box (1941) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

For the meteorologists, this meant keeping a daily record of the weather, using whatever materials they had at hand. The backs of cigarette cartons offered scraps of paper on which they could continue to record the daily weather.

This carton, and the few others like it, represent a unique and almost unrivaled record of the weather kept even during man-made disaster like war.

Fiona Williamson

Prevention and Adaptation by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

Disasters and extreme weather events are not only memorable episodes to be recalled later, they also require an immediate response in order to prevent them and mitigate their effects, and provide lessons on how to adapt to reduce future vulnerability of societies and individuals. While we would not consider many of our ancestors’ preventive measures and adaptions rational from today’s perspective, metaphysical responses and pragmatic measures were not mutually exclusive. Some technological innovations seem hardly related to weather and extreme events, and yet scholars have found that they were at least to some extent influenced by (meteorological) disasters.

Danish dart-points (ca. 13,000 years old) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF USEFUL ARTS: DANISH DART-POINTS

Around 13,000 years ago, there was a cataclysmic eruption of the Laacher See volcano in present-day western Germany. The eruption not only temporarily dammed the Rhine and devastated the immediate surroundings but transported fine ash over vast swaths of Europe. This ash—hard, irritating, and poisonous— disrupted social networks and patterns of seasonal movement of hunter-gatherers. Some groups evaded the rain of ash by moving into southern Scandinavia, where they became isolated and lost the art of making bows and arrows.

This loss finds its archaeological expression in the large tanged points that dominate the period in the eruption’s wake. These projectiles are now seen as the cultural markers of the so-called Bromme culture. The object shown here is the first such projectile point, discovered in 1915. They may be the marker of post-disaster cultural change.

Felix Riede

The Hagelkreuz east of Kottenheim (1582) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

THE HAGELKREUZ EAST OF KOTTENHEIM

By the 14th century at the latest, the custom of outdoor processions with the Eucharist had become customary. Such rituals took place on Corpus Christi and other feast days as prayers against epidemics and inclement weather. The Blessed Sacrament was carried through the fields and briefly placed in the niche of way crosses. During the processions, bells were rung to banish demons.

The Hagelkreuz (“hail cross”) at Kottenheim has such a niche for placing the host; its traditional name indicates the function of this weather cross, which was designed to fend off hail. Charters from Kottenheim mention a “Haell Crutz” or “Haelcrutz” already in 1534 and 1535. These crosses may well have been at other places than the present cross, which dates to 1582, for such processions usually went to four locations in the fields and meadows around a village.

Stefan Wenzel

Schillerglocke (1486) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

RINGING THE CHURCH BELLS AGAINST BAD WEATHER: THE SO-CALLED SCHILLERGLOCKE

Before the invention of the lightning rod in the mid-18th century, a coping mechanism to deal with approaching storm clouds was to ring the church bells, which was thought to protect the community from adverse weather. This practice went back to pre-Christian times: the idea was that ringing the bells would drive off the god of thunder, Thor or Donar.

Ringing the bells against bad weather was predominant in Catholic regions within the German territories. It persisted until the late 18th century, when new laws prohibited the ringing of the bells during thunderstorms, because bell towers attracted lightning that often killed the bell ringer.

Beginning in the fifteenth century, some bells also bear inscriptions: Vivos voco. Mortuos plango. Fulgura frango. (“I call the living. I mourn the dead. I break lightning.”)

Katrin Kleemann

Olifant (ca. 11. cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

Pilgrim's Horn

In the 14th century, the Austrian monk Matthias Farinator explained that any sound emitted from the surface of the earth could physically influence air currents. Some medieval texts refer in this vein to the protective power of hunting horns against thunderstorms. One of the most famous horns is the so-called olifant of Charlemagne, part of the treasury of Aachen Cathedral.

Pilgrim's Horn (ca. 1500) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

Every seven years, a pilgrimage brought thousands of people to the city, and, in the 14th century, pilgrims processed behind the relics blowing in miniature clay replicas. They came back home with the little instruments, like this one from Martin Luther’s family home in Mansfeld (Germany), to protect themselves from storms.

Thomas Labbé

Hendrick Avercamp: Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (1608) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

HENDRICK AVERCAMP: WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH ICE SKATERS

The Dutch painter Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634) is famous for his winter scenes. From 1608 to 1625, he painted a series of winter landscapes with skaters, showing Dutch people and the “melting-pot” on the ice. In all his paintings, the weather is quite similar: very cold and anticyclonic with stratus clouds. A comparison of his paintings with the weather diary of the Frisian David Fabricius reveals that Avercamp deliberately chose to depict such weather.

Even if the dates are not totally the same, we can say that only 16.8% of the days in winter (between December and February) were below freezing without precipitation. Thus, Avercamp produced an image of winter without rainfall or milder days, though they were quite normal at that time.

His paintings have been viewed as “testimonies” to the Little Ice Age. The winter of 1608 was very severe, and, like Bruegel the Elder in 1565, Avercamp started painting these winter scenes just after such a harsh winter.

A lot of later Dutch artists also painted beautiful winter landscapes that showed different types of weather, including Jan van Goyen, Aert van der Neer, and Jacob van Ruisdael.

Alexis Metzger

Hemmer'scher Fünfspitz (ca. 1781) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

THE INSTALLATION OF LIGHTNING RODS: THE SO-CALLED HEMMER'SCHER FÜNFSPITZ

Until the mid-18th century, there was no real protection from lightning strikes during thunderstorms. In 1752, the American naturalist and diplomat Benjamin Franklin invented the so-called “Franklin rod,” a lightning rod. In 1770, the first Franklin rod in Germany was installed on St. Jacobi Church in Hamburg. In the 1770s and 1780s, the German meteorologist and physicist Johann Jakob Hemmer built a lightning rod with five tips.

This so-called Hemmer'scher Fünfspitz (Hemmer’s five points) was installed on top of buildings. The tips were designed to fall to the ground when struck by lightning and thus show the usefulness of this new device. Despite some initual opposition to lightning rods being installed on top of churches, they soon proved their value in saving lives and protecting property.

Katrin Kleemann

The Main flood of 1784 in Würzburg (ca. 1785) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

THE MAIN FLOOD OF 1784 IN WÜRZBURG

In many parts of Europe, the winter of 1783/84 was extremely cold and snowy, potentially a result of the Icelandic Laki fissure eruption (June 1783–February 1784). That winter, several German rivers froze, but around February 23, an influx of warm air led to a melting of the ice and snow.

In Würzburg, the frozen river Main started to break up on February 27, and strong rainfall caused flooding and ice drift between February 28 and March 1.

This contemporary coloured copper engraving depicts locals trying to save the Main bridge from being damaged by debris floating down the river: Some people can be seen using sticks with hooks on the bridge, attempting to collect debris out of the river.

In the background, cannons are being fired from the Marienberg fortress to break up the ice and prevent it from damaging the bridge and other infrastructure near the river.

Katrin Kleemann

The 1858 drought and Christmas ornaments (ca. 21. cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

THE 1858 DROUGHT AND CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

The 1857–1858 drought event appears as one of the most severe of the 19th century in eastern France. In Alsace, rainfall was 30–40 % below average levels in five stations. On February 28, 1858, the Journal de Belfort wrote: “For 160 years, we have not seen the waters of the Rhine as low as they are.”

The 1858 drought and Christmas ornaments (ca. 19. cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

Whereas 1857 still saw a favorable grain harvest, conditions in 1858 had a “detrimental influence on the quantity and quality of products,” according to a record from the canton of Ribeauvillé.

Harvests were very bad. The water scarcity led to numerous tensions and conflicts between water users, farmers, and industrialists. But one of the unexpected consequences is the use of glass ornaments in France.

The 1858 drought and Christmas ornaments (ca. 19. cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

These decorations had already been in use in Germany, but French Christmas trees had typically been decorated with fruits like apples. Due to the drought in Alsace, however, apples were very rare. In Meisenthal (Moselle), a glass-blower started to make the new products, which could soon be found on Christmas trees throughout France.

Alexis Metzger

Coolies with raincoats in Hong Kong (1909) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

COOLIE RAINCOATS: HONG KONG

David Arnold has posited that cultural constructions of the tropics as sultry, exotic, languid environments were “invented quite as much as they were encountered,” this photograph aptly demonstrates his point. The despondent figures of the rickshaw coolies are set off by the construction site in the background and the puddles in the foreground. People rush across the road and huddle in doorways, while the rickshaw pullers wait, hoping that the rain will generate a fare.

Coolie with Rain Coat, from a photography album with images of Japan (19th.20th cent.) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

The coolies’ raincoats are ingenious, making use of local materials specific to that climate—palm leaves—which appear incongruous in this otherwise throughly modern and urban setting.

Fiona Williamson

Weather and Famine by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

Even today the impact of climate change and weather on food production is critical for human societies. When harvests failed due to inclement weather, the environmental stress could drive pre-modern societies to the breaking point: famine, epidemics, and social unrest were possible consequences result. These events were often remembered—primarily in religious contexts—for centuries. In some instances, the lack of food for men and animals was not only life-threatening but also inspiring and led to a variety of technological solutions, both helpful and sometimes rather curious.

Memorial stone to the mass death in 1316 (1316) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

REMEMBERING THE GREAT FAMINE FOR CENTURIES: MEMORIAL STONE FROM SCHMIDTSTEDT

Between approximately 1315 and 1321, people perished all over Europe from famine and hunger-related diseases. The so-called “Great Famine”—caused mainly by unusually cold and wet conditions—went down in history as the most widespread, weather-induced famine of the last millennium.

In remembrance of the 7,985 victims from Erfurt in Thuringia, this memorial stone was installed close to the site where the dead had been buried in mass graves in the nearby village of Schmidtstedt. For centuries—from at least 1341 until as late as 1923— memorial processions to this now deserted place on the outskirts of Erfurt commemorated the famine victims. The memorial stone thus represents how the memory of a medieval climate-related disaster was preserved in local popular memory well into modern times, for a total of almost 600 years.

Annabell Engel

[Translated inscription]
In the year of the Lord 1316, here were buried 100 x 60, 33 x 60, and 5 humans, who have died in the years of dearth. God have mercy on them.

Miguel de Santiago: Procesión durante la sequía (1699-1706) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

PROCESSION DURING THE DROUGHT

The image of Our Lady of Guápulo is venerated in the Sanctuary of Guápulo (Quito, Ecuador), which was built in the 16th century. The image was used in rogation ceremonies to pray for better weather conditions. Rogation ceremonies are Roman Catholic rituals celebrated to beg for relief from divine punishment. There are two kinds related to climate: pro pluvia rogations (celebrated during droughts when rain is needed) and pro serenitate rogations (celebrated to stop excess rainfall). The sanctuary is located 6.5 km away from the city center of Quito.

[Translation of the painting's inscription]
"In the year of 1621 there was in the city of Quito a great drought. Many crevices were open in the land and all the cattle died. The people almost died, but they agreed to process with the Lady to Santa Bárbara, and when they reached the cathedral, the rain relieved their distress."

Nuestra Señora de Guápulo (between 1870-1874) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

During the rogations, the image was carried in processions from the sanctuary to the cathedral in the city center. The movements of the image—i.e. when it was carried in such processions—were recorded in the ecclesiastical records of Quito.

Based on the rogation dates, it is possible to deduce when periods of extreme drought and precipitation affected Quito from 1600. We know that the severest drought during the last 400 years occurred in 1692–1701, when a great famine devastated Quito.

Fernando Domínguez-Castro

The “dandy horse” (1817) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about the collection

THE "DANDY HORSE"

In 1817, the German inventor Karl von Drais presented this predecessor of the bicycle. He advertised his “running machine” as an alternative to horses, which might indicate that a scarcity of horse fodder in 1816 had increased the appeal of ideas that Drais—who had first presented a four-wheel version in 1813—had been promoting for some time.

The dearth and food scarcity induced by the climatic changes following the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia and the well-known “year without a summer” (1816) could have influenced technological innovation, or at least accelerated processes that were already going on. It is difficult, however, to make such a connection between the biophysical impact of the eruption and Drais’ invention with any certainty.

What we know for sure is that Drais’ invention was considered more of a curiosity—as its English name “dandy horse” suggests. The inventor died a ridiculed alcoholic in 1851, still in possession of one of his “running machines,” which had been popular only very briefly.

Martin Bauch

Gruyères, Les anciennes mesures (1919) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

ANCIENT GRAIN MEASURES IN GRUYÈRES

Grain was—and still is—an important staple food in many parts of Europe. The cultivation of grain involves intensive labor, and the grain itself is exposed to the weather for several months. This means that unfavorable meteorological conditions can cause harvest failures and thus lead to subsistence crises. This was one reason why authorities from the late Middle Ages onwards tried to control almost all aspects of grain production, including trade, processing, and consumption.

These stone measures on the marketplace of Gruyères, Switzerland, are a symbol for the regulation by authorities. Until the 19th century, grain was measured in dry volume units: the biggest cavity in the picture measures a Coupe (51.8 litres), two other cavities are half Coupes or Mäss (26/26.35 litres) and the two smallest cavities are quarters (Viertel) of the Coupe.

Chantal Camenisch

Alexandre Hogue: Jacks (c. 1934, early 1935) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

"JACKS" – RABBIT ROUNDUPS IN THE 1930s

A destructive agricultural economy, soil erosion, dust storms and persistent drought resulted in the Dust Bowl and, combined with the decimation of coyotes and other predators, in a massive increase of jackrabbits during 1934-1935.

The last fields of crops were besieged by jackrabbits, so that farmers had to defend their already meagre harvests against them. Studies from 1935 examined the explosive population growth and concluded that the cause was, beside the killing of carnivores, an increased fertility of the rabbits in spite of the drought.

The crisis forced the government to act. It called for roundups of jackrabbits, during which they were driven together and killed inside specially erected fences. According to some reports, thousands of animals were beaten to death during these drives. From today's perspective these actions seem cruel, but for poverty-stricken families of the Dust Bowl they were a matter of survival.

“Hogue's work often suggests a 'cause-and-effect' relationship which illuminates the interconnections in nature, of which humanity is a part”, stated art historian Lea Rosson DeLong. In his painting american artist Alexandre Hogue unapologetically confronts the viewer with the interference of humans in nature.

Diana Lucia Feitsch

Epilogue by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

In the year 1901, the Ok glacier (Okjökull), on top of a volcano in Iceland with the same name, covered 38 square kilometers. In 2014, it became the first of all the Icelandic glaciers to completely disappear. On August 18, 2019, a memorial was held at the site of the former Okjökull and a commemorative plaque was installed: a man-made monument to a non-living “victim” of anthropogenic climate change.

Okjökull glacier commemorative plaque (2019) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

It is likely the first instance in which a slow-onset disaster like climatic change has been commemorated in the early stages of its evolution. Because climate and its changes have been invisible and abstract throughout human history, it is most unusual that humankind can shift their own perspective—even as societies are suffering from and adapting to climate change and the meteorological extremes this provokes—to consider the point-of-view of natural entities like this glacier.

Okjökull glacier commemorative plaque (2019) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

As humankind has been recognized as a geological force on its way to fundamentally altering the earth, it would do well to achieve a state of mind that can transcend its traditional anthropocentric point of view, as well.

Martin Bauch

Mappa Mundi: Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius: Commentarius in Ciceronis Somnium Scipionis (early 11th cent., Champagne) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Original Source: More information about this object

Contributors

Dania Achermann
University of Bern, Department of History

Martin Bauch
Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig

Chantal Camenisch
Oeschger Centre of Climate Change Research

Fernando Domínguez-Castro
ARAID researcher, Department of Geography, University of Zaragoza (Spain)

Annabell Engel
Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig

Diana Lucia Feitsch
Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig

Katrin Kleemann
Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich, Germany

Thomas Labbé
Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig
Maison des Sciences de l'Homme de Dijon, University of Burgundy (USR CNRS - uB 3516)

Francis Ludlow
Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities, School of Histories & Humanities, Trinity College Dublin

Alexis Metzger
University of Lausanne - Institute of Geography and Sustainability (IGD)

Felix Riede
Laboratory for Past Disaster Science Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies Aarhus University

Stefan Wenzel
Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Archäologie

Fiona Williamson
Singapore Management University

Supported by (2020) by Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)Leibniz Association

Curators

MARTIN BAUCH
concept, research, texts

DIANA LUCIA FEITSCH
organization, coordination, layout,
image research, image editorial, legal clarification

Special thanks to

Russell Tether from Russell Tether Fine Arts Associates for his extraordinary support regarding the Oeuvre of Alexandre Hogue and also Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art from the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Exhibition was supported by

CRIAS - Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies a Working Group of PAGES

Leibniz-Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO)

Credits: Story

THE ERUPTION AMONG THE DEER
Riede, F. (ed., 2015): Past Vulnerability. Volcanic eruptions and human vulnerability in traditional societies past and present, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
Nomade, S., Genty, D., Sasco, R., Scao, V., Féruglio, V., Baffier, D., Guillou, H., Bourdier, C., Valladas, H., Reigner, E., Debard, E., Pastre, J.-F., Geneste, J.-M. (2016): A 36,000-Year-Old Volcanic Eruption Depicted in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave (Ardèche, France)?, in: PLoS ONE 11, e0146621. [Online]. __________________________________________
RELIQUIARY CROSS FROM ST. ALBAN’S CHURCH, GÖTTINGEN
Arnold, W. (1980), DI 19, Stadt Göttingen, Nr. 5, in: www.inschriften.net, [Online].
Bauch, M. (2014): Die Magdalenenflut 1342 – ein unterschätztes Jahrtausendereignis?, in: Mittelalter. Interdisziplinäre Forschung und Rezeptionsgeschichte, 04. Februar 2014. [Online].
__________________________________________
1540 STEINWEIN BOTTLE
Wetter, O.; Pfister, C. et al. (2014), The year-long unprecedented European heat and drought of 1540 – a worst case, in: Climatic Change 125, pp. 349-363. [Online].
Johnson, H. (1989): Vintage: The Story of Wine, New York: Simon and Schuster.
__________________________________________
FLOOD MARKS IN WÜRZBURG
Wagner, U. (2001): Geschichte der Stadt Würzburg. 3 volumes. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. [Online].
__________________________________________
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF USEFUL ARTS: DANISH DART-POINTS
Rivers, W. H. R. (1912): The Disappearance of Useful Arts, in: Castrén, O. et al. (eds.), Festskrift Tillegnad Edvard Westermarck i Anledning Av Hans Femtioårsdag Den 20 November 1912, Helsingfors: J. Simelii arvingars boktryckeri, pp. 109–130.
Riede, F. (2017): Splendid isolation. The eruption of the Laacher See volcano and southern Scandinavian Late Glacial hunter-gatherers, Aarhus: Aarhus University Press.
__________________________________________
PILGRIM'S HORN
Ásdís R. Magnúsdóttir, Á. R. (1998): La voix du cor. La relique de Roncevaux et l'origine d'un motif dans la littérature du Moyen Age (XIIe-XIVe siècles), Amsterdam: Rodopi.
__________________________________________
THE HAGELKREUZ EAST OF KOTTENHEIM
Lung, W. (1962): Kottenheim. Ein Dorf und seine Landschaft. Mayen: Schreder.
Müller-Veltin, K. (2001): Mittelrheinische Steinkreuze aus Basaltlava, 2nd ed., Köln: Rhein. Ver. f. Denkmalpflege u. Landschaftsschutz.
Bell, F. G. (1992): Das Kottenheimer Hagelkreuz, in: Heimatbuch Mayen-Koblenz 1993, pp. 75-77.
__________________________________________
SCHILLERGLOCKE
Missfelder, J.-F. (2009): Donner und Donnerwort. Zur akustischen Wahrnehmung der Natur im 18. Jahrhundert, in: Ruppel, S.; Steinbrecher, A. (eds.): Die Natur ist überall bey uns. Mensch und Natur in der Frühen Neuzeit, Zürich: Chronos Verlag, pp. 81-94.
Hochadel, O. (1999): 'Hier haben die Wetterableiter unter den Augsburger Gelehrten eine kleine Revolution gemacht.' Die Debatte um die Einführung der Blitzableiter in Augsburg (1783-1791), in: Zeitschrift des Historischen Vereins für Schwaben 92, pp. 139-164.
__________________________________________
HENDRICK AVERCAMP: WINTER LANDSCAPE WITH ICE SKATERS
Metzger, A.; Tabeaud, M. (2017): Reconstruction of the winter weather in East Friesland at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries (1594-1612), in: Climatic Change 141/2, pp. 331-345 [Online].
Metzger, A. (2018): L’hiver au Siècle d’or hollandais. Art et climat, Paris: Sorbonne Université Presses.
__________________________________________
HEMMER'SCHER FÜNFSPITZ
"'Potzblitz!' Der historische Blitzableiter des Augsburger Schaezlerpalais." Kunstsammlungen und Museen Augsburg et al. (eds). Augsburg, 2008. [Online].
Hochadel, O. (2009): 'In nebula nebulorum': The Dry Fog of the Summer of 1783 and the Introduction of Lightning Rods in the German Empire, in: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 99/5, pp. 45-70.
__________________________________________
THE MAIN FLOOD OF 1784 IN WÜRZBURG
Glaser, R.; Hagedorn, H. (1990): Die Überschwemmungskatastrophe von 1784 im Maintal. Eine Chronologie ihrer witterungsklimatischen Voraussetzungen und Auswirkungen., in: Die Erde 121, pp. 1-14.
__________________________________________
THE 1858 DROUGHT AND CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS
Metzger, A.; Jacob-Rousseau, N. (2020), The 1857–1858 drought in Alsace: from water shortage to a socio-political extreme event, in: Regional Environmental Change 20/2 [Online].
__________________________________________
MEMORIAL STONE TO THE MASS DEATH IN 1316
Erthel, T. (2009): Der Schmidtstedter Gedenkstein von 1316. Ein seltenes Kleindenkmal der spätmittelalterlichen Klima- und Kulturgeschichte Erfurts, in: Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte und Altertumskunde Erfurts 70 (2009), pp. 8-16;
Slavin, P. (2018): The 1310s Event, in: White, S.; Pfister, C.; Mauelshagen, F. (eds.): The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 495‒516.
__________________________________________
MIGUEL DE SANTIAGO: PROCESIÓN DURANTE LA SEQUÍA|NUESTRA SEÑORA DE GUÁPULO
Domínguez-Castro, F.; García-Herrera, R.; Vicente-Serrano, S. (2018): Wet and dry extremes in Quito (Ecuador) since the 17th century, in: International Journal of Climatology 38, pp. 2006-2014 [Online].
__________________________________________
THE “DANDY HORSE”
Behringer, W. (2015): Tambora und das Jahr ohne Sommer. Wie ein Vulkan die Welt in die Krise stürzte, München: Beck.
Lessing, H.-E. (2017): Das Fahrrad. Eine Kulturgeschichte, Karlsruhe: Braun.
__________________________________________
GRUYÈRES, LES ANCIENNES MESURES
Dubler, A. M. (2011): Masse und Gewichte, Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, [Online].
__________________________________________
"JACKS" – RABBIT ROUNDUPS IN THE 1930s
Canterbury, S. (2018): Alexandre Hogue, Jacks, circa 1934-1935, p 1-8, [Online].
Rosson DeLong, L. (1984): Nature's Forms/Nature's Forces: The Art of Alexandre Hogue, p. 7.
Simes, M. T./Longshore, K. M./Nussear, K. E. (et. al.) (2015): Black-Tailed and White-Tailed Jackrabbits in the American West: History, Ecology, Ecological Significance, and Survey Methods, in: Western North American Naturalist Vol. 75, No. 4, pp. 491-519.
White, M. A. (2006): Alexandre Hogue’s passion: Ecology and agribusiness in “The crucified land”, in: Great Plains Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 2, pp. 67-83.
Wooster, L. D. (1935): Notes on the Effects of Drought on Animal Population in Western Kansas, in: Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science Vol. 38, pp. 351-353.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps