On Tuesday, a huge horde of ancient Celtic gold coins were stolen from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, Germany, according to Bavarian state police. Authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed around 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), was over $1 million.
“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” Bavarian Minister of Science and Arts Markus Blume told German news agency dpa. “As a testament to our history, gold coins are irreplaceable.”
The 483 coins were first found in 1999 in the ancient Celtic settlement known as the Oppidum of Manching. Archaeologists quickly realized how sensational the find was: the coins represent the largest Celtic gold find of the 20th century. The hoard is also the subject of ongoing scholarly research into Celtic trade networks.
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The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that the circumstances of the robbery were straight out of a Hollywood movie. In order to avoid setting off the alarm, the thieves cut telecommunications cables which caused internet and telephone blackouts throughout Manching.
The robbery lasted only 9 minutes.
“The museum is in fact a place of high security. But all ties with the police have been cut,” explained the mayor of Manching, Herbert Nerb, to the Bavarian newspaper. “Professionals were at work here.
The police are calling on witnesses who may have seen suspicious individuals near the museum or who have other information that could lead to the recovery of the treasure.
Rupert Gebhard, who heads the Bavarian State Archaeological Collection in Munich, estimated the treasure’s value at around 1.6 million euros ($1.65 million). “Archaeologists hope the pieces will remain in their original condition and reappear at some point,” he said, adding that they are well documented and would be difficult to sell.
“The worst option, smelting, would mean a total loss for us,” he explained, noting that the material value of gold itself would only reach around 250,000 euros at current market prices. .
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Manching’s theft is just the latest in a series of museum robberies that have plagued Germany in recent years.
In November 2019, thieves raided Dresden’s Green Vault, one of Europe’s largest treasure collections. The estimated value of the jewels stolen during this heist is north of $100 million. Six Germans accused of taking part in the robbery went on trial in January this year.
Before that, in March 2017, the “Big Maple Leaf”, a gold coin believed to be the second largest in the world, was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin.
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Authorities were unable to recover the items stolen in either robbery.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.