Marquesan tattoo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Drawing of a tattooed man from the Marquesas Islands, 1846.

A Marquesan tattoo is a tattoo design originating from the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific. Marquesan tattoos can be recognized by 'trademark symbols', such as geckos, centipedes, Ti'i's, the Marquesan Cross (which is also commonly confused with other designs) and other geometric designs. Marquesan designs distinguish themselves through the use of symbols and consistent artistic renderings of lines, arches and circles, which are uniquely attributed and linked through history to the South Pacific Islands.[1] Marquesan Tattoos are a part of the Polynesian Tattoo art.[2] The Marquesan Cross is often incorporated into larger Polynesian Tattoo Designs as it symbolises the balance between the elements and harmony.[3]


Boys received their first tattoos in their teens in a ritual setting, and by old age often had tattoos all over their bodies. Women were also tattooed, but not as extensively as men. The designs share many symbolic motifs, but were never copied entirely; every individual's tattoos were different and signified heritage, accomplishments, the specific Marquesan island the individual came from and their familial position.

Sailors on board the ships of Captain James Cook and other explorers from the West brought tattooing back with them, influenced by the designs they had seen on the inhabitants of these islands. These early tattoos, on the bodies of sailors, began the reintroduction of tattooing to the West.

Tattooing is still performed on the Marquesas Islands, though now performed with a tattoo machine rather than traditional methods.


  1. ^ "Tattoo History Museum". Retrieved 2009-08-24. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Polynesian Tattoos Gallery and Article by Ink Done Right". Ink Done Right. Retrieved 2016-02-17.
  3. ^ "Polynesian Tattoo Symbols & Meanings – Marquesan Cross". APolynesianTattoo. Archived from the original on 2016-02-17. Retrieved 2016-02-17.

External links[edit]