Gallehus Horn

‘Ek Hlewagastiz holtijaz horna tawiðó.’
‘I, Hlewagasti the Holsteiner, made the horn.’

The gorgeous Golden Horns of Gallehus (DR 12) were a set of drinking horns made from sheet gold dating to the fifth century. They were both found on the same farm in South Jutland, about a hundred years apart, with the second, shorter one bearing an Elder Fuþark inscription. Unfortunately, in 1802, they were stolen by the nithing Niels Heidenreich and melted down. The gold was used to make counterfeit pagodas, but Andreas Holm, Grandmaster of the Goldsmiths Guild, recognized their illegitimacy, and therefore suspected Heidenreich of the theft. After being caught trying to dump his coin stamps, Heidenreich was arrested and sentenced to prison, where he was locked up for thirty-seven years. Plaster casts of the horns had been made, but were lost off the coast of Corsica. The reconstructions found in museums today are based on various artistic renderings of the horns before their destruction.

The inscription can be divided into a line of alliterative verse: ‘Ek Hlewagastiz holtijaz / horna tawiðó.’ The man’s name means ‘fame-guest,’ with the latter part being a common early Germanic name element, and the former part being cognate with the Greek name element ‘Kleo-’ (Κλεο-). He is said to be ‘holtijaz,’ meaning ‘of the holt,’ ‘holt’ being a word for ‘forest’ or ‘woodland.’ This gives a meaning of ‘inhabitant of the holt,’ which is identical in meaning to Low German ‘Holtsate,’ from whence ‘Holstein,’ the southern half of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Given the close proximity, it is plausible that Hlewagasti was, in fact, a Holsteiner.

Photo: Guldhornene DO-10765 original by the National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet), CC BY-SA 3.0 / Link

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