Marshall Islands

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A set of islands and atolls in the South Pacific.

The Marshall Islands, comprising 29 atolls and 5 islands in the Pacific ocean, are located north-west of Polynesia in Micronesia. The atolls of the Marshall Islands, comprising well over 1200 islands and islets are scattered about in an ocean area of well over 600,000 square miles.


Traditional Tattoo

Traditional Marshallese tattooing was suppressed by Europeans and missionaries and, as with much of the South Pacific, was banned by the Japanese during its World War Two occupation. Much of the Marshallese tattoo designs were rooted in the marine culture, resembling sea shells, fish patterns and shark teeth (a consistent symbol in many South Pacific tattoos). Men had complete body suits tattooed in extensive strict patterns that upon completion resembled a knight's chain mail armor. Women were also tattooed although not completely.



Eoon-addin is a term specifically referring to tattoos to women of chiefly rank and consists of small ring-like bands around the entire finger, or, more commonly, only on the backside of the middle digit. Tattooing motifs seen in this ornament field include zigzag bands (eodikdik). The most commonly tattooed finger is the middle finger, and only occasionally the ring finger or the little finger are tattooed. The ring-like motifs mentioned for the first digits, appear to be a European-influenced design motif, imitating European finger rings. Traditionally, the Marshallese had no rings on their fingers.


The face tattoo, eoon-maj consists of vertical lines running from the eyes to the rim of the lower jaw. In the front these lines can also extend onto part of the neck. Forehead, face and chin are commonly free of any tattooing.



The neck tattoo, eoten-boro consists of horizontal bands running around the neck, leaving only the area of the Adam's apple free. Above the level of the lower jaw, this tattoo continues at the back of the neck all the way up to the hairline, but ends at the ears, to make space for the face tattoo. This tattoo has the meaning of a magic necklace.

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