Marquesan tattooing was among the most spectacular in Polynesia. In many Polynesian islands tattooing was restricted to certain parts of the body—the legs and buttocks, the back, sometimes the face. But in the Marquesas the entire body was often tattooed, even, according to Willowdean C. Handy, the eyelids, the tongue, the palms of the hands, and the insides of the nostrils.

Handy was the wife of E. S. Craighill Handy, an anthropologist with the Bishop Museum's Bayard Dominick Expedition of 1920-21. Although a "volunteer," she contributed a wonderful study of Marquesan tattooing, containing drawings of all the designs she could find on living Marquesans. Tattooing, which had been discouraged by many missionaries, was forbidden by law in the Marquesas and was no longer openly practiced at that time.

This illustration of a Marquesan warrior was drawn by Emile LaSalle, an artist who sailed in the mid-nineteenth century with the French explorer Dumont d'Urville.