Marquesas Islands, Or Mcudana Archinolao, a cluster of 13 small islands in the South Pacific ocean, between lat. 7' 45' and 1 1 S and Ion. 138° and 14 1 W.; aggregate area. 480 sq. m.; pop. in 1864. about 10,000. The) are generally divided into a southern and a'northern group. The former (Hiwaoa, Tahuata, Motane, and Fatuhiva) was discovered in 1595 by tin-Spaniard Mendana de Neyra, and by him named Las Marquesas de Mendoza in honor of the viceroy of Peru, the marquis de .Mendoza. Of the northern group, discovered by Captains Marchand and lngraham in 1791, the largest islands are Nukahiva, Uahuga or Washington, Uapoa or Adams, Shotomiti or Franklin, ami Fatuuhu. They are of volcanic origin, a fact which is attested by long rows of bleak basaltic rocks. Each island is formed by a mountain ridge, which rises to an elevation of 2,000 or 3,000 ft., sending forth numerous lesser chains, between which fertile valleys open toward the ocean. The coast is for the most part rugged and precipitous, and the roadsteads being unprotected furnish no safe anchorage. The climate and productions resemble those of the other volcanic islands of subtropical Polynesia. The rainy season lasts from November to April. Droughts are not unfrequent during the hot season; Krusenstern mentions One which lasted for ten months.
The valleys, the soil of which is formed by hundreds of layers; of decayed vegetation, are extremely fertile, and produce all tropical fruits in abundance. The yam, sugar cane, banana, plantain, taro, sweet potato, cotton plant, etc, grow almost without culture. The hillsides are covered with forests of cocoanut, breadfruit, and pa-paw trees, the fan palm, and numerous other trees; but the vigorous growth of underbrush renders them almost inaccessible. The fauna of the islands is as poor as their flora is rich. There are no indigenous mammalia, hut swine, rats, and cats have been introduced from Europe. Of birds there are only four or five distinct species; among them the kurukuru and the gupil, a parrot of the size of the robin, are the most beautiful. Water fowl abound on the coast, and valuable mussels are found near the shore. - The inhabitants belong to the Malay race, and are distinguished by grace and symmetry of person. Their complexion is of a light copper color; the women appear almost white, but this complexion is produced by the application of the root of the papaw tree.
Tattooing is practised by both sexes, Their social organization is similar to that which prevailed in the Hawaiian islands before the introduction of Christianity. They are divided into many tribes or clans, among whom bloody wars are of frequent occurrence. The tabu serves them instead of religion. The tabooed or privileged classes consist of atnas. who are venerated as superior beings; tanas, soothsayers and "medicine men;" tataunas, priests and surgeons; ulius, the lowest rank of the bierarchy; lataikis, secular rulers; and tons, war chiefs. The non-tabooed classes are the peio pekeios, servants of the chiefs; averias, fishermen; hokis, singers and dancers; and nohuas, common laborers. The last named class hold a similar position to that of the pariahs in India. Among the peculiar social institutions of the islanders is polyandry, the woman choosing her husband or husbands, and retaining them or not according to her pleasure. Cannibalism is also practised sometimes, but simply as an act of vengeance; it is only the bodies of slain enemies of which now and then a slice is eaten. Their ordinary food consists principally of vegetables.
A highly intoxicating beverage is prepared by chewing the root of the kanoa plant (piper metisticum), mixing it well with saliva, and then spitting it into a vessel, in which it is perfected by fermentation. The extensive use of this beverage produces leprosy or consumption. Besides these diseases, elephantiasis, scrofula, liver complaints, inflammation of the lungs, and diseases of the eyes, often resulting in blindness, are common among the islanders. Their scanty clothing is obtained from the mulberry tree, the bark of which they render thin and soft by beating, thus forming a kind of coarse cloth. Their habitations, small log huts thatched with leaves of the cocoanut tree, are erected on stone platforms from 3 to 5 ft. above the ground. In similar houses they bury their dead. - These islanders have no history. Even the first discovery of the islands by Europeans has been entirely forgotten, though the Spaniards, who introduced swine, and also Cook (who in 1774 visited Fetuhugu or Hood island) and Mar-chand, are still venerated as gods. The Marquesas were taken possession of in 1842 by Admiral Du Petit-Thouars, by authority of the French government. The inhabitants afterward made some unsuccessful attempts at reconquering their liberty.