Tattooing in the Marshall Islands
For the creation of a pigment tattoo two main tools and a number of accessories were needed. The tools were the tattooing adze and the mallet which were used to deliver the pigment under the skin and to create the tattoo. A tailâfeather from a seabird was needed to draw the outline of the intricate tattoo, prior to the tattooing process. In addition, there were a receptacle for the pigment and a small mat, specially woven for the occasion to cover the head.  In detail, the tattooing utensils needed were:
- The ngi, "tooth",  a tattooing adze, was made from a stick or piece of bamboo, about 25-30cm long, which formed the handle (juro).  In its upper end a flat piece of bone about 40mm long and 7 mm wide is inserted at right angles (figure 77c). There were two sizes of tattooing chisels are distinguished: a small one (ngi wajid)  with 3 to 5 fine points (teeth) for making dots and the fine motifs, and a larger version (ngi ?) with up to 12 points  for the general tattooing work. Sometimes both types of chisels can be mounted on the same handle (figure 77a).
- The mallet (jub) , , for pounding in the teeth of the adze was commonly made from a straight, 20-30cm long piece of hardwood or the central rib of a coconut frond with a slightly flattened end (figure 77b). 
- The pigment container consisted of half a coconut shell.  Two types of containers are distinguished, large ones (ar in eo)  to dip in the tattooing chisel and small ones (ar in jeje)  for the drawing brush (figure 77d).
- The black pigment (mamoj),  used for both outlining the tattoo design on the skin, as well as for the application of the tattoo itself, is obtained from pounded charred coconut fibres
which are then mixed with water.  According to another source the pigment consists of pounded charred coconut fibres, the sap of the aerial roots of Pandanus and of a composita plant.  A third source mentions that the pigment was gained from the carbon of burned coconut leaf sheaths mixed with water.  After contact with the Europeans, Marshallese preferred using the pure black carbon soot from the lantern chimneys (also called mamoj) to mix the pigment.  The deep black colour of the pigment was called mej .  It is said that colour of the parrot fish (Scarus spp. ) resembles the colour of freshly applied tattooing pigment. 
- The drawing brush (jeje)  consisted of the long tail feather of a frigate bird  or of a central rib of a coconut leaf, often mounted on a handle made of a small stick or the thicker end of a feather.  Another source mentions that the jeje consisted of the shaft of a primary wingfeather of one of the tropic birds, which has been hafted in the quill of a primary wing feather of a Frigate bird. 
- A small basket (iep) to keep the implements. 
- A woven ornamented mat (bunnemij) to cover the face during the tattooing ceremony.  This mat, especially woven for the occasion, was in the style of the clothing mats, but substantially smaller in size (figure 77e). 
- A brush made of coconut or other fibres (kajala)  to fan the tattooed skin during the healing process.
- Several (fine) mats (jjibur en křr ) to cover the freshly completed tattoo (sections) to prevent infection. 
Figure 77 Schematic representation of tattooing utensils. A-The tattooing chisel, ngi; B-The mallet, jub; C-Detail of a chisel; D-The pigment conainer air in eo; E-A small tattoo mat, bunninemij.
Raw materials used
The tattooing chisel was made of bone, commonly a wing bone of an albatross or frigate bird,  -in the late 1870s-the femur of a domestic chicken.  Sometimes bundled fish spines were also utilised. The larger the diameter of the bone, the straighter the chisel could be. Oral traditions show that the Marshallese went to the northern atolls, where nesting seabirds were abundant, to collect birds. Eneen-Kio (Wake Island), the northernmost atoll of the Marshall Islands, was an especially favourite place to go.  Here the shortâtailed or Laysan albatross (Diomeda immutabilis, Family DIOMEDIDAE) bred  and could easily be caught, while it was largely an airbound visitor to the other atoll of the Marshall Islands and hence hard if not impossible to catch.
Figure 78. A Laysan Albatross.
In the Marshall Islands the use of human bones for tool manufacture is known ethnographically, though not for tattooing needles.  Tattooing chisels made from human bones, as part of ancestor worship and to foster clan cohesiveness are known from a large number of Pacific Island communities,  where ethnographic descriptions could be made before the Pacific culture had changed under the influence of Europeans.
Manufacture of tools
In order to manufacture the fine teeth of the chisel, a special file was used, made from a spine of a sea urchin (Acrocladia trigonaria), which had been ground flat into the form of a screw-driver head. 
Bibliographic citation for this document
Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (1998). Tattooing in the Marshall Islands Second edition.
Dirk H.R. Spennemann,
Institute of Land, Water and Society,
Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789,
Albury NSW 2640, Australia.