The golden horns are two of Denmark's most famous Iron Age finds. They date back to the 5th century AD. and were unearthed at Gallehus near Møgeltønder. The first horn was found by a young lace maker called Kirsten Svendsdatter in 1639. It was of pure gold, decorated with animals and people and inexplicable symbols. The horn was a treasure trove – a monument to the past. It was therefore given to the King. In 1734, a smallholder called Erik Lassen found another golden horn with a runic inscription. This also found its way into the King's art collection. But tragedy struck when they were both stolen in 1802 and melted down. Two memorials bearing the names of the finders were erected on the spots where the horns were discovered.
Not much fuss was made when the golden horns were found. But when they were stolen, melted down and then lost forever, it caused quite a stir. Adam Oehlenschläger wrote a poem about the golden horns shortly after the robbery. And from the 1850s, the golden horns assumed a whole new value. They were not just rare relics. They were symbols of Danish national identity and of Denmark's magnificent past. The short golden horn had the oldest known inscription in Old Norse. And this was interpreted as proof that South Jutland was intrinsically Danish territory. The inscriptions were written in Danish on the memorials erected in 1907 in honour of those who found the horns despite the fact that the area was German territory at that time. The golden horns have retained their position as national symbols for centuries. The 200th anniversary of their disappearance was commemorated both in Copenhagen and in Gallehus.