Lawyers for the Hopi tribe had asked for the auction to be cancelled on the grounds that the masks must have been stolen from the tribe. It considers them sacred and blessed with divine spirits.
However, auctioneers say the masks had been bought and sold in the past and were legally acquired. They claimed blocking the sale would have implications for the trade of indigenous art and could potentially force French museums to hand back collections they have bought.
In a linking report, the biggest survey of Native American DNA has concluded that the New World was settled in three major waves. The majority of today's indigenous Americans descend from a single group of migrants that crossed from Asia to Alaska 15,000 years ago or more.
In 2004, the archaeologist from the University of South Carolina found artifacts along the Savannah River in Allendale County to be from around 50,000 years ago. The findings are significant because they suggest that humans inhabited North America well before the last ice age more than 20,000 years ago, a potentially explosive revelation in American archaeology.
For five years, Dr. Goodyear continued to add artifacts and evidence that a pre-Clovis people existed, slowly eroding the long-held theory by archaeologists that man arrived in North America around 13,000 years ago. See the full story here.
The dawn of modern homo sapiens occurred in Africa between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. Evidence of modern man's migration out of the African continent has been documented in Australia and Central Asia at 50,000 years and in Europe at 40,000 years. The fact that humans could have been in North America at or near the same time is expected to spark debate among archaeologists worldwide, raising new questions on the origin and migration of the human species.
With archaeologist's theories clashing, it is clear we have more to learn.
Should individuals own mankind's early heritage? Contention still rages between Greece and the British Museum over the Eglin Marbles. Is it possible for everyone to return artifacts to their original place?