French museum officials say they have no idea how the “toi moko” – which is intricately tattooed and has one damaged eye socket – came to be in their possession.
Until 1996, it had been on public display alongside the museum’s prehistoric collection, said museum director Sebastien Minchin.
“As was done at the time, they compared the ‘savage’ from the other side of the world with our local cavemen,” he told the Associated Press news agency.
It is thought to be one of some 15 similar relics in French possession and one of about 500 around the world.
Story: BBC News | Photo: AFP