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Once-contested sale of tribal artifacts goes ahead in Paris

Associated Press logo Associated Press 4/4/2017 By THOMAS ADAMSON, Associated Press
This photo dated Monday, April 3, 2017 shows various types of "fleche faitiere", decorated spears used by the Kanak to adorn their rooftops, on display at the Aguttes auction house in Neuilly sur Seine, outside Paris, France. A once-contested sale is going ahead in Paris of precious Kanak artifacts that were acquired by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. Nine wooden objects, including large decorative arrows dating from the 16th century, are to go under the hammer Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) © The Associated Press This photo dated Monday, April 3, 2017 shows various types of "fleche faitiere", decorated spears used by the Kanak to adorn their rooftops, on display at the Aguttes auction house in Neuilly sur Seine, outside Paris, France. A once-contested sale is going ahead in Paris of precious Kanak artifacts that were acquired by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. Nine wooden objects, including large decorative arrows dating from the 16th century, are to go under the hammer Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS (AP) — A once-contested sale of precious artifacts bought by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia went forward on Tuesday.

This photo dated Monday, April 3, 2017 shows a Jovo wooden door jamb on display at the Aguttes auction house in Neuilly sur Seine, outside Paris, France. A once-contested sale is going ahead in Paris of precious Kanak artifacts that were acquired by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. Nine wooden objects, including large decorative arrows dating from the 16th century, are to go under the hammer Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michel Euler) © The Associated Press This photo dated Monday, April 3, 2017 shows a Jovo wooden door jamb on display at the Aguttes auction house in Neuilly sur Seine, outside Paris, France. A once-contested sale is going ahead in Paris of precious Kanak artifacts that were acquired by a private collector from the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia. Nine wooden objects, including large decorative arrows dating from the 16th century, are to go under the hammer Tuesday. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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."

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