PARIS – A once-contested sale of precious artifacts bought by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia went forward on Tuesday.
Nine sculpted wood objects from the French territory in the South Pacific were going under the hammer, including large decorative arrows dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Parisian auction house Aguttes estimated the items would sell for up to 775,000 euros ($825,000).
A group linked to the Kanak people stopped a similar sale of the objects in Basel, Switzerland in 2015 on the grounds it suspected they were stolen.
Collector Jean-Louis Roiseux said he later established the provenance of the rare artifacts, which he came across in New Caledonian shrub land in 1972, with documents attesting to the purchase from tribal leaders.
“They are among the oldest such Kanak collections in existence,” Roiseux said.
Auctioneer Claude Aguttes said the surreal 2-meter (6 feet, 5 inches) -long sculptures adorned hut roofs and grew in size and intricacy according to a resident’s social importance.
The artifacts’ value increased over the years because of their rarity, Aguttes said, adding that they “almost disappeared and very few remain.”