Te Papa Tongarewa says it is likely to be several years before 20 toi moko (Maori heads) being repatriated from France can be returned to their tribes.
Heads were collected and traded by many European explorers in the 18th century.
About 180 toi moko and koiwi tangata (skeletal remains) have been repatriated from several countries by Te Papa since 2003.
The museum says Paris is arranging for French museums to hand over the heads to one central museum.
Repatriation manager Te Herekiekie Herewini says the heads are due back early in 2012.
The museum aims to return the toi moko to their descendants but he says it will take time.
Mr Herewini says a team will study where toi moko had been collected and traded, but he says that work also relies on artists analysing the facial tattoos.