The robbery took place Tuesday night at the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, about 40 miles north of Munich.
The coins, dating to around 100 BC, were discovered in 1999 at the site of a large Celtic settlement nearby. The artifacts, weighing a total of 4kg (8.8lb), are the largest Celtic gold cluster ever discovered in the 20th century and are worth “millions” of euros, police said.
According to the police statement, the perpetrators entered the exhibit room where the items were displayed and opened a display case containing 483 coins.
Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany. credit: Armin Weigel/dpa/Getty Images
The Oppidum of Manching was once one of the largest Celtic settlements in Central Europe, occupied from around 200 BC. It later developed into a large city-like settlement surrounded by walls made of wood and stone.
The site was severely damaged in the 1930s with the construction of a military airfield. But excavations carried out after World War II have uncovered planned streets, rows of buildings and evidence of trade facilitated by coins minted at the site. According to the museum, only about 7 percent of the settlement has been excavated so far.
Bavaria’s science and arts minister, Markus Blume, described Tuesday’s theft as a “disaster”.