Papua New Guinea ancestor statue valued at up to $6m

An Uli ancestor statue from Papua New Guinea is expected to make around $4m-6m at Sotheby's.

The lot will star in a sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art in New York on May 7.

Uli ancestor figure
The Uli ancestor figure is one of 255 known specimens

It's one of the largest of the 255 known Uli figures and was carved with stone tools on the island of New Ireland between 1650 and 1800.

The majority of surviving specimens were produced in the 19th century, making this a fascinating outlier.

Sotheby's comments: "Within the corpus of New Ireland Uli figures, the present statue ranks at the top, with only two comparable examples in terms of size, age and sculptural quality: one is today in the Louvre in Paris, and the other remains in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin.

"This sculpture offers us a glimpse into the spiritual life of a primordial, autochthonous island culture, as it existed before the cataclysmic influence of Western contact."

Other lots include a Veracruz greenstone yoke dating to around AD 550-950, which was used in the Mesoamerican ballgame known as ollamaliztli.

It's valued at $300,000-500,000.

The game was played with a large rubber ball, which had to be kept in play using only the hips. It had strong ritual significance to the Aztec people and often ended in human sacrifice.

It's theorised that the yokes were worn on entry to the arena and removed before play.

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