The Maori are well known for their stunning tattoos. Tattooing, called ta moko by the Maori, has always been an important part of Maori culture. The early Maori settlers of New Zealand brought this practice from their Polynesian homelands. Tattoos were used to signify status and rank. In early Maori society most people were tattooed, the type and amount of tattoos reflected their status which changed and increased along with the change and increase of their performance. Slaves were also marked with tattoos. Many slaves advanced their position within the society to the point where they actually became the master. Maori tattoos were also used to attract the opposite sex.

Receiving tattoos was an important step to maturity and there were many rites and rituals associated with the event. Up until the early nineteen hundreds a bone chisel with an extremely sharp edge was used for tattooing. It was an extremely long and painful process involving the carving of deep grooves into the skin.

Although they were marked all over their bodies Maori women usually had their lips and chin tattooed.