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Lady killer withdrawn night before $9,500 British auction

A sacred Australian Aboriginal stone has been removed from sale following a last minute plea


Collectors of Australian Aboriginal art and artefacts should take note.

The items you have in your possession could indeed be rare and valuable, but you might not be able to sell them at auction.

A tjuringa stone was withdrawn from auction by British-based Canterbury Auction Galleries this week just hours before its Wednesday, September 7 sale.

The pre-19th century artefact, which originates from the central Australian Arrernte people and may only be handled by male elders, had been valued at £6,000.

According to tribal law, any woman who saw the stone would be put to death.

The Australian High Commission called the auction house on Tuesday to explain the stone's importance and seek its withdrawal from sale.

Tjuringa stones are held in such high regard by the Arrente that, out of respect, Australian museums refuse to exhibit them.

The sacred stone is valued at £6,000

The consignor had received the stone from Australian naturalist Archer Russell in the early 1960s.

The national director of Museums Australia, Bernice Murphy, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "It's more important to Aboriginal culture than the Elgin marbles to Greece because this kind of object has a continuing religious association."

In 2009, Sotheby's cancelled the sale of an historic pair of $700,000-valued portrait busts following an objection from Tasmanian Aborigines regarding the use of images of their ancestors for commercial gain.

It is on occasions such as these that private sales and dealers come to the fore, with transactions able to take place away from public scrutiny.

Less controversial aboriginal pieces have made it to the auction block in the past, and can command big sums.

An Australian Aboriginal decorated shield from north-east Queensland, Australia, sold for $46,000 at Sotheby's Melbourne in July 2006.


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Image: Canterbury Auction Galleries

Last updated: 9 September 2011