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British Auction House Pulls Aboriginal Stone

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A “Tjuringa,” a delicately etched flat stone, recently up for auction through the Canterbury Auction Galleries was pulled August 7 after it’s inclusion caused outrage.

The stone is a sacred aboriginal stone in Australia that is traditionally handled by initiated male elders according to an AFP article in The Sunday Times Newspaper In Sri Lanka.

The spiritual artifact as tradition states, if viewed by a woman she would be struck down and die. A British woman who received it as a birthday gift more than 50 years ago, from Archer Russell, an Australian naturalist and writer according to the BBC, brought the stone to the Galleries. The sacred item was expected to sell for up to $9,500.

The Australian High Commission contacted the Galleries on August 6 to explain the significance of the stone prompting the removal according to an article by the BBC.

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“I've spoken to the vendor and you can be the first to know that we're withdrawing it from auction,” the auction house's managing director Tony Pratt told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

According to the Sunday Times the potential sale had outraged Aboriginal experts, who said Australian museums refuse to exhibit the artifact out of respect to the stones importance in the Arrernte people’s of the central desert region culture.

"It's more important to Aboriginal culture than the Elgin Marbles to Greece because this kind of object has a continuing religious association," Bernice Murphy, the national director of Museums Australia, told the ABC

Pratt hopes the stone can be returned to Australia where it dates before the 19th Century.