A CARVED Maori wood panel fetched £7,600 at a Cotswold auction exceeding all expectations.

The piece was bought by a museum of primitive art for the top price of the day at an auction held at Moore Allen and Innocent, in Cirencester.

Although it carried a much lower estimate, auctioneer Philip Allwood said he was confident the piece would reach at least £5,000 after receiving pre-sale offers in that region from New Zealand before the auction last Friday.

Measuring over 1.3m in length, the piece dates back to the 19th Century and features three figures with their tongues protruding and their arms raised, interspersed with a scrolling snake decoration.

"We are seeing an emerging trend as the native people of places like Australia and New Zealand seek to buy back their heritage," said Mr Allwood.

"Pieces like these were hand-made in limited numbers to be sold to a western audience, so they are very rare," he added.