(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.
Moli (tattoo needles) dating from 1200 to 1300 were discovered in a shelter near Hanauma Bay on Oahu in 1958, but such artifacts are extremely rare.
Historians have determined that anyone could have a tattoo, but often it was the more affluent who were the most extensively adorned, possibly because a skilled tattoo master had to be paid, and poor people could not afford his services.
Needles could be bound together to form multi-points when large areas were to be covered with designs. If permanent tattoos were desired, an intense black ink would be made of the burned soot of the kukui nut.
Arago noted in 1819 that kukui soot was mixed with juice from coconuts and sugar cane to attain a workable consistency.
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.Missionary William Ellis watched the procedure, commenting to the queen that she must be undergoing great pain.The queen replied, He eha nui no, he nui roa ra kuu aroha.Shards of pottery they carried with them have been found throughout the Pacific, pottery whose curvilinear and rectilinear shapes, spirals, chevrons and interlocking elements are so similar to Polynesian tattoo designs, historians are certain there was an ancient connection.Even stylized masks and sea creatures appeared on Lapita pottery, as it did in early Polynesian tattoo forms.Sometimes outcasts born into the kauwa (slave) class were permanently marked with a curved line above the bridge of the nose, or a circular spot in the middle of the forehead, with curved lines like brackets on either side of the eyes.