Field of the most important treasure

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You have found different treasures of gold and silver around the earth of Denmark over the year. But one field in the tiny village of Gallehus is the home of the two most famous golden treasures ever discovered in Denmark.

In this field a girl found one golden horn in the year 1639 the horn was made by pure gold and weighed no less than 3.1 kilos or 100 troy ounce weight. This would put the value of this horn at more than 150,000 dollars at today’s gold price. The girl turned in the horn like the law required and she wrote to the king who gave her a skirt as a reward for the discovery. The king gave the horn to his favorite son the crown prince who used it as a drinking horn.

The two memorial stones

Almost a century later in 1734 a poor peasant farmer found another horn in the very same field only a few meters away from where the girl found the first horn. This horn was shorter than the first horn – never the less it was heavier weighing in at 3.7 kilos or 119 troy ounce of gold. He turned in the horn to the local count who gave the horn to the king. The poor farmer got an award of 200 Rigsdaler which was a fortune in that day.

The horns were kept in the kings treasure chamber from this point on as one of the most treasured belongs from the ancient Denmark.

House in the small village where they found the horns

In 1802 a poor goldsmith and watch maker modified his own house key – and I guess back then the keys wasn’t quite as refined as today. So he managed to get access to the king’s treasury and steal the two valuable horns. He secretly melted the gold into different artifacts and sold them off to people in Copenhagen. Finally he got caught after a tip from another gold smith in Copenhagen. He confessed and most of the gold was returned to the king – but the horns were lost since they had been melted. The gold was just melted again and used for coins – and hence the original gold from the horns were lost forever.

Later they have made a copy of the horns which is currently at display at the Danish national museum Nationalmuseet. The horns were made long after the originals had been lost and they are in fact bad reconstructions – apparently the long horn is at least 10-12 centimeters longer than the original.

Here found the second golden horn April 21 1734 by Erik Lassen in Gallehus

Part of the reason the horns are so famous is not just the weight of the horns and the huge value they represent. One of the horns had an inscription which is the best known text in ancient language of Proto-Norse which was the language spoken in Scandinavia after the Norse language divided from the Germanic language spoken in Europe.

The horns are also richly decorated with some displays from ancient Norse religion. There is an early picture of Odin and another of Tor with his hammer. And there is also a picture of the god Tyr and the wolf which bit his hand off.

Today the field of the discovery of the golden horns is commemorated with two stones with a picture of the horns on each of them and a short text with the name and date of the person who found the horns.

Here found the second golden horn April 21 1734 by Erik Lassen in Gallehus

Nobody really knows how long the horns were in the ground – but it is assumed they were made around year 400 – hence they must have been given as an offering after this. A qualified guess is in the year 537. During this year the old legends has it the sun and the moon were darkened for a full year. Back then nobody knew why and the legend of the fimbul winter arose. This is the legend of the end of the world according to Old Norse religion where the end of the world will start with this winter which last three years.

The winter back then didn’t last three years – but it was bad. The cause of the winter wasn’t the beginning of the final battle between the gods and their enemies during Ragnarok. Instead the most likely cause of the bad winter was a large volcanic eruption in the year 535 or 536. The eruption could be either Krakatau in Indonesia or Ilopango in El Salvador. No matter what the consequence of this eruption was the coldest year during the last 2,000 years. The following decade was still amongst the coldest years in the last two millenniums – the trees barely grew in those years according to studies of the growth rings of trees. Such catastrophic events could require some huge offerings to the gods in the hope of changing the wrath of the gods and give a better harvest in the following year. This might be the reason for this huge offering of gold which is the largest single find of gold ever in Scandinavia.

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