Maori artefacts to sell for $150k

Maori artefacts valued at $150,000 will be going under the hammer in Auckland, New Zealand next week.

The collection of 50 mainly greenstone and bone items includes pieces dating back to the 13th century - close to the earliest archaeological evidence of settlement in New Zealand by Polynesians.

The prized treasures include a whale tooth pendant called a rei puta. It is believed only a dozen exist and the piece on sale is unique because it has a greenstone inset eye.

Whale tooth, better known as scrimshaw, can fetch huge prices with one recently selling for $67,000

"It is probably one of the few collections of this quality to come on to the market," said Steve Austin, chief executive of Marlborough Museum.

Mr Austin said that the collection was of national significance, and that it was essential that a museum bought it, he said - although he would not reveal if the museum would make a bid.

The collection belongs to amateur archaeologist Frances Ryman and it was once on display at Canterbury Museum.

Mrs Ryman, a former Burnside High School teacher, excavated the relics during the 1960s from farmland at Matariki Point, on the Clarence River, near Clarence in the South Island.

Matariki Point was believed to be the site of a seasonal fishing settlement. It spanned from first settlement to the mid-1700s, just before first contact with Europeans.

New Zealand's earliest archaeological material came from nearby Waiaru Bar, also dated to the 13th century.

The collection promotes the "genius of technology" and artistry in Maori culture, she said. "I'm hoping that a museum preferably associated with the area will do the right thing and buy those things."

Auctioneers Webb's have valued the collection at $100,000-150,000 for when it goes to sale next Thursday.

There has reportedly already been interest in the collection, with undisclosed parties sending private valuers to assess it.

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