"A maiden, of beauty / Shall find the token!" - The Golden Horns of Gallehus

20 July 1639, near Tondern, the lace maker Kirsten Svensdatter discovered by accident the longer of the two Golden Horns of Gallehus, dating back to the early 5th century CE, one of the greatest archaeological treasures ever found in Denmark.

Ye who blind are straying, / And praying, / Shall an ag'd relic meet,
Which shall come and shall fleet, / Its red sides golden, / The stamp displaying / Of the times most olden. // That shall give ye a notion / To hold in devotion / Our gift, is your duty! / A maiden, of beauty / Shall find the token!" (Adam Oehlenschlager, “The Gold Horns“)

An 18th century depiction of one of the horns

According to the contemporary Danish scholar Ole Worm, Kirsten Svensdatter saw the horn protruding from the ground and wrote a letter to King Christian IV of Denmark who had it salvaged and gave it as a present to his son, who made a drinking horn out of it – not before Ole Worm studied the artifact though. What Kirsten Svensdatter had found was a golden horn, either a musical instrument or indeed a drinking horn, weighing 6.6 lbs with a length of 20’’. The horn was made out of an inner and outer frame and richly ornamented golden rings.

Punched and wrought with human and animal figures as well as stars, depicting probably a Germanic sword dance, gods and a dragon slayer and a constellation that might illustrate a lunar eclipse from 412 and an eclipse of the sun from 413 CE. Speculations along the lines of the artefact being something to prevent an imminent apocalypse, as manifested in the solar eclipse, a kind of inverted Gjallarhorn, had been made as well.In April 1734, the farmer Erich Lassen found a similar second, somewhat shorter horn nearby, this one bearing an inscription - ek Hlewagastiz Holtijaz horna tawidō, ("I Hlewagastiz Holtijaz made the horn") a proto-Norse dialect, neither northern nor western Germanic yet.

Almost 70 years later, in 1802, the tohubohu with the horns began.  Stolen from Det kongelige Kunstkammer in Copenhagen by the goldsmith and well-known counterfeiter Niels Heidenreich, the Golden Horns of Gallehus were melted down for some mysterious reason and made into earrings and fake Indian coins. Copies were made from sketches, with replicas of the horns now on exhibition in Copenhagen, London, Dresden and St Petersburg. The copies were stolen again in 1993 and 2007.

Harald Slott-Møller (1864-1937): "Pigen, Der Finder Guldhornet" ("The Girl Who Finds The Gold Horn") (1906)

The full text of Oehlenschlager’s poem can be found here:


and more about the Golden Horns of Gallehus on: