The theft took place on Tuesday evening at the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, about 40 miles north of Munich.
Dating to around 100 BC, the gold coins were discovered in 1999 at the site of a large Celtic settlement nearby. The artifacts weigh a total of 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), representing the largest Celtic gold horde discovered in the 20th century, and are worth “several million” euros, police said.
According to a police statement, the perpetrators gained access to a showroom where the items were on display, before breaking into a display case containing 483 pieces.
The Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany. Credit: Armin Weigel/dpa/Getty Images
Once one of the largest Celtic settlements in Central Europe, the Oppidum of Manching was occupied from around 200 BC. Later, it became a large city-like settlement surrounded by wooden and stone walls.
The site was badly damaged by the construction of a military airport in the 1930s. But excavation work carried out after the Second World War has unearthed evidence of planned streets, rows of buildings and trade facilitated by coins minted on site. According to the museum, only about 7% of the settlement has been excavated so far.
Bavarian Science and Arts Minister Markus Blume called Tuesday’s theft a “disaster”.