Gold robbery from Manching: The hunt for the Celtic treasure

Gold robbery from Manching: The hunt for the Celtic treasure

At the end of November, almost 500 valuable coins were stolen in Manching. Archaeologists and the police are looking for traces of the perpetrators together.

Archaeologists and detectives have something in common when they go about their work: they follow clues and sometimes reveal spectacular secrets. Basically it’s the same with him Gold treasure of Manchingwhich was stolen from the museum in the city of the same name on the Danube in Bavaria during the night of November 21/22.

Only with the difference: The archaeologists have been examining the more than 2,000-year-old Celtic-age gold since it was found in the summer of 1999. The special commission “Oppidum”, set up by the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office (LKA), has only been dealing with it since the find was stolen. Nevertheless, investigators and researchers follow the tracks left by the thieves. To this day, the gold is gone. Also read: The tomb of Tutankhamun: find of the century and mystery

Celtic treasure: 483 high-quality gold coins

The Manching pot of gold is not the only one, but it is the largest Celtic one coin treasure, which was found in the 20th century. It consists of 483 high-quality gold coins. Many show unusual embossing. In addition, there is a nugget of over 200 grams of equally high-quality gold.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, larger hoards of such coins were indeed found Bernward Ziegauscoin expert with a focus on the Celts and head of the numismatics department of the Archaeological State Collection in Munich, but many coins were simply melted down at the time. Also interesting: Late Bronze Age: Man having cranial surgery 3500 years ago

The Manchinger Goldschatz also faces a similar fate – at least if the thieves are primarily concerned with making quick money. The metal value of the 3.7 kilogram treasure is estimated at around 250,000 euros. The value of the coins, if sold individually to collectors, would be around 1.6 million euros, says Ziegaus. The value for the Research is priceless, according to the numismatist.

In nine minutes the treasure was gone

On request, the LKA reported that the officials initially used the usual methods: radio cell evaluation, inspection of the crime scene, questioning of witnesses. The area and the waters were searched. “Classic police work,” says LKA spokesman Fabian Puchelt to our editorial team. With details on the status of the investigations and the methods of the special commission but he holds back. “For forensic reasons.”

However, it is known that the video cameras in the museum were not working at the time of the crime. That also applies to them alarm system of the House. The thieves had previously cut a fiber optic cable in the ground near the museum, which was necessary for technical surveillance. More on the subject: Mystery of gold solved: Precious metal does not come from the earth

Nevertheless, the investigators reconstructed the entire course of the robbery. Just nine minutes elapsed between the violent opening of the entrance door to the museum, the opening of the display case and the subsequent escape through the same door. Then the thieves were with that Schatz disappeared.

Investigations: A look at auction houses and internet portals

Hardly anyone is that familiar with that gold treasure like the numismatist Ziegaus. After the find, between 1999 and 2003, he headed the scientific investigations of the coins before the Manching Museum opened in spring 2006 and the gold was exhibited there.

Ziegaus says that investigators keep asking him for his assessment. “That’s not only my job, but also my concern,” says the scientist. He himself observes the offers from relevant auction houses and Internet portals about antiquity as best he can coins sold and waits to see if a coin appears from the pot of gold. “But when such pieces are sold over the counter at coin fairs, we don’t notice it, of course. You have to be very lucky. Or colleagues who inform us,” he says. Read here: Tutankhamun’s new home – a palace of glass and concrete

Alloy gives clues to the origin of the gold

The gold alloy offers at least a small chance for the investigations. Because the specific gold content of the coins forms a kind of fingerprint of the treasure. There is in Gold always admixtures, especially so-called platinum by-metals. They provide information on the origin of the gold – in the case of Manching, the coins come from Bohemia, “probably from Central Bohemia; but some of the gold may also come from the eastern Mediterranean.”

You have to know that the Celts were inhabiting large parts of Europe at the time the treasure was buried. And Manching was one of the few Celtic metropolises. In the so-called The town – a city complex surrounded by a defensive wall – had 5,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. The place was in the center of what was then the Celtic settlement area, which stretched from today’s Great Britain to the western Black Sea and which was politically, economically and culturally astonishingly uniform.

Contacts to Greece and Asia Minor

“From the 4th century onwards, a unified culture developed across the whole of Europe and Central Europe,” says the Rupert Gebhard, Professor of Prehistory and Early History and Executive Director of the Archaeological State Collection in Munich. “This is also evident, for example, in the fact that there was a uniform monetary system in the Celtic world for payment.” There were contacts as far away as the Greek-Hellenistic and Asia Minor regions.

Celtic mercenaries, warriors and traders brought gold with them from there Central Europewhich in Bohemia, for example, may have been minted into coins together with gold from the regional rivers or mountains.

Monetary system: Gold coins had the same weight everywhere

Die celtic coins were not all the same, but all met certain requirements. “The gold coins were the largest coins in this monetary system,” says Gebhard. “They weighed the same everywhere.”

Can this knowledge about the gold content and the alloy also be used in the work of criminologists? Gebhard says there is “at least a theoretical” possibility. “Of course there are identical coins coming from the same source in Bohemia come. You would have to analyze them and then you can compare them,” says Gebhard. More on the subject: Hygiene among the Celts – tribes were cleaner than expected

It might even work if that Gold would have been melted down. However, it is difficult if the thieves add other additives to the melted metal. “The moment the whole thing is remelted, you ultimately get a new overall alloy and can no longer deduce the gold from a forensic point of view.”

The research potential was great

Another possibility would be to determine the proportion of lead isotopes in the coins – with the so-called Lead isotope analysis. Statements about the origin of the gold can also be obtained with this method. Such an analysis has already been carried out on individual Celtic coins of various origins, but unfortunately not yet on the Manching Celtic Treasure. More on the subject: World’s oldest sword surprisingly discovered in Japan

“There would have been great research potential in this direction,” he says numismatist Ziegaus. But since he completed his research on the coin hoard in 2003, the hoard has not been available for such research as a complete find.

Ziegaus: “Research is something that goes on”

At that time there weren’t many methods that Ziegaus could have used today. Another example is what the researcher calls “a screening with a electron microscope or other optical possibilities”. It didn’t happen either. Under the technical conditions at that time, it was still too time-consuming and too expensive.

“You always have to weigh things up and ask, can the museum afford such a special investigation? Or do you leave it as an example with a few pieces and save the long series of investigations for the next steps?”

Until the treasure turns up again, these next steps won’t happen. The Manching Treasure is “the only surviving Celtic treasure gold coin find that could have been made available on this scale for further investigations,” says Ziegaus. “Research is something that goes on, it doesn’t stop at one point, especially when you think of the new possibilities of using AI,” he says.

The loss of the coins is therefore huge – not only for him, but for all other and future numismatists. The search for the treasure continues.

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