What Is An Arrowhead?

Arrowheads are often found at archaeological sites around the world. They are believed to have been used by Native Americans as early as 12,000 years ago.

“They were used to hunt game animals such as deer, bison, elk, and antelope,” says archaeologist Dr. Mark Miller. “They also served as tools for hunting and fishing.”

What Is An Arrowhead

What Is An Arrowhead?

Arrowheads are usually made from stone, bone, copper, or bronze. The shape of these objects varies depending on their purpose. For example, arrowheads that were used for hunting are typically longer and thinner than those used for ceremonial purposes.

The earliest known arrowhead is a piece of flint from the Upper Paleolithic site in Germany called Klissoura-1. It was discovered back in 1929 as part of an excavation project. This particular object was uncovered in a layer of material dating back 10,800 years.

Another famous arrowhead is the Clacton Arrow. Discovered in Essex, England, this artifact dates back some 5500 years. It’s one of only two arrowheads ever found that has survived from ancient times.

In 2014 archaeologists unearthed a 1,600-year-old tomb in Xinjiang Province, China. Inside they found the remains of two people who had been mummified using a technique called “cremation with ingestion.” Amongst the items buried with them were more than 2,100 pieces of pottery including over 300 arrowheads.

Today, there are many museums all around the world that feature arrowheads. Some of these include the British Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropology, and the National Museum of Natural History.

Myths Surrounding Arrowheads

Despite the facts listed above, there are some myths and misconceptions that surround arrow heads. 

Not All Pointy Objects Are Arrowheads

Myth Number 1: All Triangular Stone Objects Found on Archaeological Sites Are Arrowheads

Archaeologists refer to arrowheads, which are objects fixed to the end of shafts by means of arrows, as a relatively narrow subset of what they call projectile points.

Projectile points are a broad category of triangularly pointed tools made of stone, shell, metal, or glass found throughout prehistory and the world to hunt game and practice warfare. There is a pointed end and an element called the haft that enables the point to be attached to a shaft made of wood or ivory.

There are three broad categories of point-assisted hunting tools: spears, darts or atlatls, and bows and arrows. Hunting requires points of a specific shape, thickness, and weight; arrowheads are the smallest type of point.

Microscopic research into edge damage (referred to as “use-wear analysis”) has also shown that some stone tools that look like projectile points could have been used as cutting tools instead of propelled into animals.

Some cultures and times clearly did not create special projectile points for working purposes. Objects such as the so-called eccentrics, or objects of ritual use, can be elaborately worked stone objects.

Size and Shape Matters

Size And Shape Matters

Myth Number 2: The Smallest Arrowheads Were Used for Killing Birds.

The smallest arrowheads are sometimes referred to as “bird points” by the collector community. The results of archaeology experiments have shown that these small objects-even those less than half an inch in length-can kill a deer or even a larger animal.

They are true arrowheads in the sense that they were attached to arrows and shot with a bow.

It would be easier to hunt birds with nets than with an arrow tipped with a stone bird point.

Myth Number 3: The Hafted Tools with the Round Ends are Meant for Stunning Prey rather than Killing it.

Stone tools called blunt points or stunners are really regular dart points that have been redesigned so that the pointy end forms a long horizontal plane.

One edge of the plane might have been deliberately sharpened. With a ready-made hafting element, these are excellent scraping tools for working with animal hides or wood. The proper term for these kinds of tools is hafted scrapers.

Older stone tools are often reworked and repurposed — lanceolate points (long projectile points hafted onto spears) were often reworked into dart points for use with atlatls.

Weapons and Warfare

Myth Number 4: The Reason we have so many Projectile Points is that there was a lot of Warfare between Tribes in Prehistory.

Based on analysis of blood residues found on stone projectile points, it is likely that most stone tools were made by animals, not humans. Most likely, these tools were used for hunting. Prehistory was characterized by a low frequency of warfare as opposed to hunting for food.

Despite centuries of diligent collecting, many projectile points have been found. This is because the technology is very old: hunters have been making points for over 200,000 years.

Myth Number 5: Stone Projectile Points are far more Effective a Weapon than a Sharpened Spear.

Under the direction of archaeologists Nichole Waguespack and Todd Surovell, the Discovery Channel’s “Myth Busters” team found that stone tools penetrated animal carcasses only about 10% deeper than sharpened sticks.

Researchers Matthew Sisk and John Shea also found that the depth of penetration of a projectile into an animal may be affected by the width of the projectile point, not its length or weight. 

Final Thoughts

There we have it. That should answer all the questions that you may have about arrow heads. As we can see by this information, it is clear that in the modern era, arrow heads are more used as ornaments rather than in combat.