Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Marquesans are the inhabitants of the six larger islands of the Marquesan Island group: Nukuhiva, 'Ua Pou, 'Ua Huka, Fatuiva, Tahuate, and Hora Oa, including intermittent occupation of some of the smaller islands of the group (e.g. Eiao). There has also been a large scale emigration of Marquesans to Tahiti. Subsistence is based on tree products (e.g. breadfruit, bananas, plantains) and root-crop horticulture supplemented by fishing. The political organization of the Marquesas consists of a number of chiefdoms, each without clearly defined territorial domains. Social organization was hierarchical, based on "tapu" principles, ritual occupation, sex, age, chiefly rank and property ownership.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Oceania --Polynesia


French Polynesia

OWC Code


Collection Information

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Marquesans (OX06) collection covers a wide range of ethnographic data, covering a time period of from 1770 to approximately 1977. Although nearly all the documents in this collection discuss Marquesan traditional ethnography to varying degrees, probably the best general coverage will be found in Handy (1923, no. 10), and the works by Linton (1923, 1939, nos. 7 and 10). Other ethnographic topics in this collection are as follows: tattooing designs, methods, and differences between southeastern and northwestern island groups in Handy (1922, no. 8); Marquesan sexual behavior in Suggs (1963, no. 13); a theoretical and comparative study of the Marquesan understanding of person, personal development, differentiation, similarities and potentials in Kirkpatrick (1983, no. 14), and a summary of major themes in the literature on Polynesian socialization in Martini and Kirkpatrick (1983, no. 15).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article,”Marquesas Islands”, by Nicholas Thomas, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 2, Oceania, Terence E. Hayes, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co., 1991. The indexing notes and synopsis were added by John Beierle in May 2011. Population was updated in May 2011.

Overview by

John Beierle

Collection Indexing Notes

Enoas –blood brothers– Use ARTIFICIAL KIN RELATIONSHIPS ( 608)

Fa’e taina –birth house– Use OUTBUILDINGS ( 343)

Fa’e tuman –the cook house– Use OUTBUILDINGS ( 343)

Fanaua –family ghosts– Use ESCHATOLOGY ( 775)

Fata’a –a structure restricted to the use of men– Use DWELLINGS ( 342) and/or AVOIDANCE AND TABOO ( 784)

Ha’a-te-pe’iu –female chief– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Haka-ike –chief– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Ka’ioi –adolescent bands– Use ADOLESCENT ACTIVITIES ( 883) with AGE STRATIFICATION ( 561)

Kahui (ahni) –temporary restrictions– Use AVOIDANCE AND TABOO ( 784)

Kuhane (uhane) –soul or spirit of human beings– Use ANIMISM ( 774)

Mahu –male homosexuals– Use HOMOSEXUALITY ( 838)

Mataei-nana –the tribe– Use TRIBE AND NATION ( 619)

Me’ae –temples or other sacred places– Use RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES ( 346) and/or SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Moa –temple assistants– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Nohoana –servants of the chief– Use DOMESTIC SERVICE ( 357)

Pahupahu –maternal uncles and aunts– Use AVUNCULAR AND NEPOTIC RELATIVES ( 604)

Pekio –secondary husbands and wives– Use POLYGAMY ( 595)

Po’i tiketiki –people of the chiefly class– Use CLASSES ( 565)

Tahu ahi –fire tender of the chief– Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Tai –age set– Use AGE STRATIFICATION ( 561)

Tapu –objects or things considered taboo– Use AVOIDANCE AND TABOO ( 784)

Tau’a (etua) –“high” or “inspirational” priests; also diviners– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793) STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE ( 554) and/or PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Tiki –sacred images– Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Toa –war leaders– Use MILITARY ORGANIZATION ( 701) with STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE ( 554)

Tohua –a community center– Use PUBLIC STRUCTURES ( 344)

Tuhuna –skilled craftsmen; assistants to the chief– Use OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION ( 463) and/or LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Tuhuna o’ ono (tuhuka o’oko) –ceremonial priests– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Tununga –medicine man– Use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756)

Vehine mako –female homosexuals– Use HOMOSEXUALITY ( 838)

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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