From 'Skin Stories', "For centuries, various arts of tattooing have graced the bodies and satisfied the souls of the aboriginal peoples of Oceania. The vast majority of what we know today about these ancient arts has been passed down through legends, songs, and ritual ceremonies. The roles, techniques and motifs of the arts of tatau, moko, and uhi have continued to exist for over 2,000 years. The oldest of these traditions is in Samoa, and the youngest is in Aotearoa/Te Waipounamu. However, every Polynesian culture had similar traditions. In Tahiti, the Arioi, a class of professional entertainers, used tattoos (tatau) to mark the various ranks and status within their troupes. In fact, within the islands currently known as French Polynesia (the Society, Tuamotu, Austral, Gambier and Marquesas groups), the individual island groups or even individual islands had unique designs. Thus, it was possible to identify a person's origins based on their tattoos. Unfortunately, while Tonga once had a strong tradition of tattoo (tatatau), the missionary presence of the 19th century completely extinguished the art. In Rapanui, tattoos (ta') were used extensively as well, although not much is known by the outside world today about their meanings or usages."
"Some design elements that were common throughout Polynesia were linear geometric motifs, petroglyphs, and very basic pictographic representations of men, animals, birds or other man-made objects. Each of the geometric designs, including lines; triangles; circles and other polygonal symbols had multiple meanings based on placement on the body, incorporation with other designs, and the person being tattooed. It was usually up to the master to determine what was appropriate for each person and to then explain the story to that person."