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The word tattoo is one of only a few words used internationally that have a Polynesian origin coming from the word tatau used in Tahiti, Tonga, and Samoa. Interestingly, tattoo designs are thought to supply one more clue to the origin of the Polynesian peoples, as they bear close resemblance to the geometrical designs found on Lapita pottery.The Lapita people originated in Melanesia and Southeast Asia about 3,000 B.(Great pain indeed, greater is my affection.) Early explorers found that both men and women wore tattoos in old Hawaii for a variety of reasons. Jacques Arago, who visited the Islands in 1819 as a draftsman with the Freycinet expedition, noted that some men were heavily tattooed on only one side of their bodies.He wrote, They looked like men half burnt, or daubed with ink, from the top of the head to the sole of the foot.
As a final indignity, their eyelids were turned up and tattooed on the inside, called maka uhi.
Some bones were split to form double pointed needles.
Some were grooved from the base to the point of the barb with the dull upper end wrapped in fiber to hold ink in reserve. Some plants produce a highly acidic juice, which could be used for tattoos marking the death of a loved one, that would last six months to a year.
Images: The copperline engravings of the Polynesians originated from sketches done by european artists visiting various islands in the South Pacific during the early 1800's.
Queen Kamamalu had a tattoo applied to her tongue as an expression of her deep grief when her mother-in-law died in the 1820s.