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Maori claim a victory this week as France becomes the latest country agreeing to return tattooed, mummified Maori heads from its museums to New Zealand.

New Zealand has spent years battling to have the Maori heads returned from museums all over the world.

The tattooed warriors’ heads were brought over to Europe as exotic oddities long ago when Westerners traded them for weapons and other prized goods.

"From a ritual showing the respect of a tribe and family toward their dead, the mummified heads became the object of a particularly barbaric trade due to the curiosity of travellers and European collectors," Parliamentary Relations Minister Henri de Raincourt said.

Traditionally kept as trophies from tribal warfare, once Westerners began offering prized goods in exchange for the heads, men were in danger of being killed simply for their tattoos.

Maori believe that forebears' remains deserve full respect and care and should rest in their home area without being disturbed.

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