Essays on the Marshallese Past

Ethnographic Documentation

The Marshallese society exercises a number of customs which are unique and which distinguish it from the culture of the surrounding island groups. Ethnographic recording investigates and documents the various aspects of Marshallese culture and society. Marshallese culture is changing with the times, and more and more "traditional" culture is becoming lost. Over time, many aspects will become completely forgotten and survive only in the ethnographic documentation.

A good example is tattooing. Today, only few people are tattooed, and those who are, wear western motifs. In the pre-Christian days all Marshallese were tattooed to varying degrees. These tattoos distinguished them as being Marshallese, in the same way as it clearly marked the strangers, for example those from Woleai in the Carolines, who had been shipwrecked on Marshallese shores.

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Bibliographic citation for this document

Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Essays on the Marshallese Past Second edition. Albury:

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.

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