The robbery took place Tuesday night at the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, around 40 miles north of Munich.
Dating back to around 100 BC, the gold coins were discovered in 1999 at the site of a large Celtic settlement nearby. The artifacts weigh a combined 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), representing the largest hoard of Celtic gold discovered in the 20th century, and are worth “several million” euros, police said.
According to a police statement, the perpetrators gained access to an exhibition room where the items were on show, before breaking open a display case containing 483 coins.
The Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany. Credit: Armin Weigel/dpa/Getty Images
Once one of central Europe’s largest Celtic settlements, the Oppidum of Manching was occupied from around 200 BC. It later grew into a large city-like settlement surrounded by walls made from timber and stone.
The site was badly damaged by the construction of a military airport in the 1930s. But excavation work carried out after World War II uncovered evidence of planned streets, rows of buildings and trade facilitated by coins minted at the site. According to the museum, only about 7% of the settlement has been excavated so far.
Bavaria’s minister for science and art, Markus Blume, described Tuesday’s theft as a “catastrophe.”