Europe's largest nest of dinosaur eggs has been completely destroyed by vandals, Spanish authorities have announced.

The Mirador del Cretáceo dig in Coll de Nargó was found to have been attacked by during a routine visit by Angel Galobart, head of the research group Mesozoic centre. He discovered dinosaur footprints and the remains of hatched eggs trampled and smashed and contacted the Department of Culture, El Periodico reports.

The eggs had been put on display at the museum in an artificial dig site, protected from the elements. They had been reconstructed to appear to be hatching.

Galobart said: "Eggs have been broken and debris are scattered throughout the site."

Sites containing dinosaur eggs are extremely rare. The area attacked is the largest dinosaur nesting site in the whole of Europe.

Salvador Moyà, manager of the Palaeolithic Institute of Catalunya, said the attack was "inconceivable", and compared it to the recent attacks against cultural artefacts by Islamic State (Isis) in Iraq.

The mayor of Coll de Nargó, Benito Fité, said: "It's a big step back, a catastrophe. We lose a very important asset, since the visit to the site is included within the museum visit."

Earlier this month, researchers found four different dinosaur eggs at the Coll de Nargó site, proving the coexistence of a number of different dinosaur species in the same nesting area.

The eggshells were from dinosaurs living just before the asteroid that caused the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction event, 65.5 million years ago.

Over the years, the area has yielded thousands of dinosaur eggs from the Upper Cretaceous period.