Oscar Holland, CNN
Updated: Thu, 24 Nov 2022 15:56:14 GMT
A hoard of ancient coins has been stolen from a museum in southern Germany, according to the Bavarian State Police.
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.
German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that phone and internet services in the area were disrupted at the time of the heist, with local mayor Herbert Nerb telling the outlet: "They cut off the whole of Manching." The museum said it would remain closed on Wednesday, adding that it could not be reached by phone or email due to a "telephone malfunction."
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."
"Everything must be done to quickly solve the crime and punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law," he wrote on Twitter. "One thing is clear: Whoever steals art damages our culture."
There have been several high-profile heists at German museums in recent years, most notably at Dresden's historic Green Vault, where masked thieves grabbed 21 priceless diamond-studded artifacts worth at least 113 million euros ($117 million) in 2019. Two years earlier, a huge gold coin worth around 3.7 million euros ($3.8 million) was taken in the middle of the night from a museum in the capital, Berlin.