The top rim of the smaller Golden Horn from Gallehus © Tønder Museum

What are the 5th century Golden Horns from Gallehus?

The largest ever golden treasure from The Migration Period was found in Renaissance Denmark. A new exhibition at the Museum in Tønder near the border between Denmark and Germany tells the story.

Advertising Tønder MuseumThe 5th century Golden Horns from Gallehus are Denmark’s most legendary treasure. Together, they weighed more than 7 kilos of gold, representing the fabulous sum of more than 1650 Roman solidi. Both were made of wide gold rings on which figures and symbols were soldered and engraved.

The golden horns were found almost a hundred years apart – in 1639 and 1734 – in a field near Møgeltønder. Even then, there was no doubt that the Golden Horns were “Ancient” and “Danish”, and the horns were therefore handed over to the king and kept in his private collection, the Royal Treasure. Here, they were drawn, described and admired. Christian IV even presented one of the horns to his son and heir, who had a “golden plug” fitted that made it possible to empty the horn of the 1,4 l of mead it might hold.

The story of how the Golden Horns from Gallehus were found is exciting and unusual. However, the horns also continue to excite historians, linguists and archaeologists. Unique inside wider Europe, their enigmatic and mesmerising decoration offers food for countless speculations.

Unfortunately, what we possess now is a series of reproductions. In 1802, however, the horns were stolen and melted down, thus lost forever. As opposed to the near-contemporary treasure of Childeric’s, the horns were not that well published. We must still work from the original writings and drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

As a remedy, the founder of Spies Rejser, in collaboration with the National Museum of Denmark, had two sets of copies created based on the existing drawings and descriptions. One set of copies is on display at the National Museum – the other set may now be experienced from the 7th of October 2022 at the local museum in Tønder.

Why and when the golden horns ended up in the ground as a treasure is still a mystery. Nevertheless, in the exhibition about the fabled Golden Horns in Tønder, visitors may now get the archaeologists’ take on what significance the horns had in the Iron Age during the Migration Period and learn more about their fascinating appearance, ornamentation and inscription(s).

A review of some of the latest research on the horns may be read here

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