Runic Dictionary

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DR 11 (DR11) - Gallehus horn 1

object; c400-450; not skaldic;

Location: Gallehus, Møgeltønder sn, Lø hd, Sønderjylland;
Google maps: 54.9568,8.81215

contents from the ONP and skaldic databases:

object/burial information

The golden horns

The Gallehus horns are made of solid gold and were found separately. The long gold horn was discovered in 1639 by Kristen Svendsdatter, a poor orphan girl. The second, shorter horn was found in 1734 by Erich Lassen, a farmer. The two instruments were unearthed at locations only 15–20 meters apart despite being found almost a century apart. They were interpreted as musical instruments at the time, but were converted into drinking horns by the Danish King Christian.[1]

The Gallehus horns that hang in the National Museum of Copenhagen today, are sadly replicas as the originals were stolen and melted down in 1802. It has still been possible to date the horns to the fifth century, mostly because of the engraved runes and the illustrations that depict costumed figures, animals, warriors, presumed gods, some of whom engage in sacrificial activities and have a resemblance to the late Bronze Age petroglyphs found in Sweden and Norway.[2] Similar figures have also been found on a number of cremation urns from a cemetery in northern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, dating to around 400AD, and some scholars think the gold horns might have been produced in this area.[3]

The horns are examples par excellence of the bucina lur, the structure and the conical shape of the instruments echoes the construction of the wooden lurs. This is particularly clear when one examines the imitations of the withies that bind together the two halves of the instrument.[4] One of the small figures on the longer (1639) horn, seem to carry a signal horn, similar in size and shape to the one it decorates.[5]

[1] The Golden Horns, National Museum of Copenhagen, (acessed 09.09.2012)

[2] Terry Gunnell, The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1995), 50-51

[3] Lars Jørgensen and Peter Petersen, Guld, Magt og Tro (Denmark: Nationalmuseet, 1998), 182-185

[4] The golden Gallehus horns resemble the Holinge lur in particular, as they have the same concave shape.

[5] Frands Herschend (forthcoming), The Iron age Horn Bearer., 5

[6] The Gallehus horns, http://www.runenprojekt.uni (accessed 09.09.2012)

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