A Marquesan tattoo is a tattoo design originating from the Marquesas Islands of the South Pacific. Marquesean tattoos can be recognized by 'trademark symbols', such as geckos, centipedes, Ti'i's, the Marquesan Cross and other geometric designs. Marquesean 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.
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 tattoo machine rather than traditional methods.