Maquesas Islands History and Culture
The Marquesas Islands belong to a group of islands to be found in the southern Pacific Ocean in French Polynesia. These Islands seem to have been originally settled by the Polynesians about 2000 years ago, supposedly from the Tonga & Samoa islands. The island made it's first contact with a Spanish explorer, who later named this island as The Marquesas Islands. Later in the year 1842 France gained the possession to this group of islands.
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Since the mid 19th century, the Marquesas we're affected by Western diseases particularly by small pox, as a result of which there was a decline in the population from 100,000 in the 16th century to just 20,000 in year 1870, which was later reduced to a mere 2,000 at the start of 20th century. Currently the population of the islands is roughly 8,600 and most of the Marquesas Islands hardly have any people.
Marquesas islands is one of the most isolated group of islands in the world, located 850 miles northeast of Tahiti, and almost 3000 miles from the Western Mexico, the closest continental mass of land. The islands are divided in two group of islands centered near Nuku Hiva, which is the biggest island, with southern group of islands situated around the islands of HivaOa. The Marquesas are one of the biggest groups in French Polynesia with a total area of 405 sq miles. All the islands except for one have been formed as a result of volcanic activity.
French & Tahitian are the French Polynesias official languages, yet, you will get to hear a lot of the native Marquesan language while you are in the island. This group of islands was at one time a major power center of Polynesian civilization & culture. However other Polynesian Islands like the Tahiti & Easter Island are supposed to be settled by the Marquesan travelers, may be due to scarcity of food because of high population or being exposed to continuous warfare in the past centuries.
The Marquesan Culture is well known for it's long tradition of intricate geometric tattoos, which often cover the whole body of both men as well as women here. Presently, the Maquesan culture is a blend of ancient Marquesan traditions with evidence of being strongly influenced by both Tahiti as well as France. The islands we're blessed with abundant basaltic rocks due to volcanic eruptions and helped the ancient Marquesans to build tools made out of stone along with the stone monolith carving which we know today as tiki. The Marqueesans had formidable reputation of being the best carvers in entire Polynesia, with stone & wooden designs meant for utensils, beautiful sculptures & weapons.
Most of the myths associated with the tiki figures which we're created by the ancient inhabitant of the Maquesas islands have lost their importance in due course of time. These tiki figures we're associated with numerous myths related to the creation which form an integral part of the ancient island culture. Tiki symbolizes the original ancestor of Mankind. There are some who consider that Tiki, the First Man, made the island of Nuku Hiva for his children Atea & Atanua. The natives of Nuku Hiva carved his image in stones and used these tikis for worship. The Marquesans even constructed stone terraces, well known as Meae, in reverence to tiki Gods. Such creation myth is not very different from the one practiced by Polynesian societies on other neighboring islands and besides this the carved tiki Gods bear a striking resemblance in all the islands.
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