American Indians made the arrowheads or “projectile points” about 500 A.D. However, archaeologists discovered that stone arrowheads existed way back in the Middle Paleolithic Levallois and were used by both the Neanderthals and Early Modern Humans. Arrowheads without stone tips, on the other hand, were found to be in use 400-300,000 years ago.
The people in South Africa used bow and arrow for hunting for at least 70,000 years ago. People outside of Africa only did so about 15,000—20,000 years ago.
Table of Contents
- Types of Arrowheads
- Types of Points
- Types of Blade Shapes
- Groups of Arrowheads
- How Do You Know If Arrowheads are Real?
- FAQs about Arrowheads
- Are All Triangular Stone Objects Arrowheads?
- Are the Smallest Arrowheads Used Only for Killing Birds?
- Are Hafted Tools with Round Ends Only for Stunning Prey and Not Killing It?
- Are Arrowheads Made by Heating a Rock and Dripping Water On It?
- Does the Amount of Projective Points Found Indicate a Lot of Warfare Between Various Tribes Long Ago?
- Doesn’t It Take a Long Time to Make an Arrow Point?
Types of Arrowheads
The lanceolate arrowheads include:
- Auriculate: An auriculate arrowhead is a fish-shaped arrowhead that includes auricles or ears which point downward at an angle.
- Lanceolate: With a straight or concave base, a lanceolate arrowhead has a blade that expands out from the tip, narrowing back in near the base.
- Leaf: The leaf arrowhead is also called an egg-shaped or ovate arrowhead, and it has a point that expands out from the tip and then narrows back in at the base. It also has a round, not straight, base.
- Triangle: In a triangle arrowhead, the blade extends out from the base to the tip.
Notched arrowheads include the following:
- Basal Notched: Because these arrowheads have notches that enter the body from the base of the point, they tend to have very long barbs.
- Corner Notched: Usually resulting in the creation of a barb, these arrowheads have notches that enter the body of the point from the corner. They can also enter where the blade and the base meet.
- Side Notched: In these arrowheads, parallel notches are created because the notches enter from the blade to the body of the point.
Here is a list of the most common types of stemmed arrowheads:
- Contracting Stem: This type of stemmed arrowhead tapers from the shoulders to the base, and the tapers can be slight ones or ones that are very sharp.
- Expanding Stem: The expanding stem arrowhead has a stem that actually expands instead of tapering from the shoulders to the base. It is different from a side notch in a stylistic way, so if you cannot find your point, check for side-notched points.
- Stemmed: On the stemmed arrowheads, the stem itself is relatively straight from the shoulders to the base.
Miscellaneous arrowheads include:
- Bifurcated: These arrowheads have points with a deep center notch located in the base. Its overall shape can range from notched to stemmed points. All points are known as bifurcated points
- Mechanical (Expanded) Blade Broadheads: With mechanical blade broadhead arrowheads, the blades are retracted just before the shot close to the ferrule, and, upon impact, they expand to expose the cutting edges. If you use bows rated 50 pounds or more, these types of arrowheads are not recommended, mainly because most of them require additional energy to open properly upon penetration.
- Other Shaped Lithics: There are numerous other tools that are not necessarily pointed like arrowheads are, but which are made of the same materials and therefore sometimes included in this category. This includes scrappers, fleshers, drills, and knives, among others.
Types of Points
These arrowheads have a steel point and are made for hunting small game and for target shooting.
Blunt point arrowheads are not pointed and can be made of materials that include hard rubber, steel, or even plastic. They are used to hunt small game and for some types of target-shooting.
These points are short and rigid, and they consist of a small cross-section. At one time, they were made of an unhardened iron and may have been made to get a longer or better flight, or because it was an inexpensive way to make an arrowhead. In the 1400s, a hard-steel bodkin point actually penetrated some chain armor that had been made in Damascus.
A broadhead point arrowhead is used mostly for hunting big game. It contains steel blades in various amounts, and it is built solidly. Also razor-sharp, the broadhead point arrowhead is, in fact, the only arrowhead that is allowed to be used for big game hunting. Checking with your state laws is always recommended because each state has its own minimum diameter and number of cutting edges that are allowed in your broadhead point arrowhead.
No longer used, elf arrows are also called pixie arrows, and they were made of flint. Used for both war and hunting, elf arrows can be found among some native peoples in the world, although in most places they are non-existent. These arrowheads can also be used as amulets and set in silver, which are believed to ward off witchcraft.
These steel-pointed arrowheads are used for both small game hunting and target shooting. They look similar to target points but have very distinct shoulders. For this reason, any outdoor shots that are missed won’t become stuck in tree stumps or other obstacles. Hunters use them for shooting practice because they have weights and characteristics that are similar to broadheads and because they do not get lodged in target materials or cause extensive damage when you remove them.
Fish point arrowheads can spear fish and also secure them until an attached line lands on them. The arrowheads are either spring-loaded or barbed and are quite long in length.
The JUDO point arrowhead is designed with spring arms which are attached to the arrowhead. Their main purpose is to prevent arrow loss, catch in leaves and grass, and both to hunt small game and shoot “stump.”
Safety arrows are made mostly for various types of reenactment combat, and, when shot at people, there is a lower risk of harm. Safety arrows have heads that are padded or very wide, and, if they are used with bows that have restricted draw length and draw weight, they can reduce the risks involved with shooting arrows at people, as long as they are suitably armored. The parameters vary depending on the level of acceptable risk felt by the participants and the specific rules being used. These rules can vary from country to country.
Target point arrowheads have sharp points and are bullet-shaped. They are created to penetrate target butts easily while causing as little damage as possible.
Types of Blade Shapes
An excurvated arrowhead starts out wide at the base and comes to a point at the tip. It is not a narrow arrowhead, but it does taper to a point at the tip.
An incurvate arrowhead starts out wide at the base and narrows to a point at the tip, just like an excurvated arrowhead. However, an incurvate arrowhead has sides that curve inward slightly and, therefore, is a little more narrow in size and shape.
These arrowheads also start out wide at the base and narrow to a point at the tip, but the shape is a little more pronounced, and it is wider towards the base than other types of arrowheads.
The outward recurvate arrowheads have wide bases and points at the tip, but they are virtually the same width from the base to the tip. They have a more “even” look than other types of arrowheads.
Serrated arrowheads have serrated edges along the sides, making for a more pronounced look.
These arrowheads have wide bases and narrow at the tip, but their sides are very straight instead of rounded or curvy.
There are numerous websites that can teach you how to create your own arrowheads with bones, and they recommend bones that are extra-strong, such as the femur or leg bone of an animal. As long as the bone is a very strong type, the arrowhead will perform as you expect it to.
Chert is a type of sedimentary rock that is hard and fine-grained. It is composed of quartz crystals very small in size. Usually, chert is made of the petrified remains of siliceous ooze, which is the biogenic sediment covering a large portion of the deep ocean floor. Depending on where it comes from, chert can contain small macrofossils or microfossils, or both. It can vary greatly in color, although most chert rocks are greyish-brown, brown, grey, light-green, or even rusty red. The color is based on how many trace elements are found in the rock, and both green and red are usually related to traces of iron.
Flint is a hard type of quartz that is typically categorized as a type of chert. It is found mainly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, including limestones and chalks. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark-grey, black, green, brown, or white, and it sometimes has a waxy or glassy look. The thin layer on the outside of the nodules is often a different color, usually white, and it has a rough texture. The term “flint” often refers to a form of chert that is either limestone or chalk.
A type of volcanic glass that occurs naturally, obsidian is formed as an extrusive igneous rock. It is created when felsic lava extrudes from a volcano and then cools rapidly with very little crystal growth. Often found within the margins of obsidian flows, rhyolitic lava flows, obsidian rock has a high silica content and induces a degree of lava with high polymerization and high viscosity.
Arrowheads made of wood are made of very strong woods, and some of the strongest woods include oak, balsa, and bamboo, although, if you research various types of wood, you can easily come up with other options.
Groups of Arrowheads
Of all the arrowheads you could use, the broadheads are the most dangerous. The tips of these arrowheads are made with at least three blades that are razor-sharp and cut deep wounds into both big and small game. They penetrate very easily, cause more bleeding than target arrowheads, and are usually barbed to make the arrow get stuck in the animal. They do not fall out easily, and, in fact, you are more likely to have an arrow break than to have it fall out of your prey. If you are not going hunting, there is no reason for you to purchase or use a broadhead arrowhead because these arrowheads will rip apart your targets, not make you a better archer.
Blunt arrowheads come in numerous sizes and shapes; however, they do not penetrate their target. Instead, blunt arrowheads cause blunt trauma that kills or paralyzes small game. A JUDO point arrowhead is a type of blunt arrowhead, and this type of arrowhead is gaining in popularity. It has metal springs that keep you from losing the arrow under leaves or in the grass since they always stop the arrow from burrowing itself too deeply.
Blunt arrowheads are used for practice or to hunt small game, but they are not harmless and should never be given to children for their practice sessions. At high speeds, blunt arrowheads can cause a lot of damage. There are safety arrowheads that are made of soft materials that keep the danger to a minimum, and, even though they are of limited use to target archers, these may be acceptable for beginners or even children, rather than using blunt arrowheads.
Target arrowheads are what you will likely use when you first start shooting. They have no barbs, and, therefore, they do not get stuck in the target. They are also made to easily penetrate archery targets, and it is very simple to pull them out of the target again. Target arrowheads should be handled with care because they can penetrate the animal or human skin easily. They can kill or injure whatever they hit.
How Do You Know If Arrowheads are Real?
Purchase Arrowheads from a Reputable Dealer
Antique stores and other reputable dealers can guarantee the authenticity of the arrowhead you’re purchasing. If a dealer cannot produce documentation that what is being sold is truly authentic, they could very well be selling a fake or a reproduction arrowhead. Demand that the dealer produce some type of documentation verifying that the arrowhead is a real one, not a fake one. As long as you are working with a reputable dealer, you should be able to feel confident about the outcome.
Ask about the Arrowhead’s Origin
The dealer should know where the arrowhead came from, and you have every right to ask for this information. Once you get an answer, don’t forget to check out the answer and compare that arrowhead with others from the same location. If you do your due diligence and compare the items correctly, this should give you some idea of whether it is real or fake.
Look at the Edge of the Blade
Authentic arrowheads have blades that are usually filled with circular, choppy dents. If the blade is more rigid, is perfectly uniformed at the edge, or has rectangular dents, it could be a fake. In fact, blades with perfect edges and rectangular dents could very well be made with a metal chisel or, worse yet, machine-made. The more irregular or natural they look, the more likely you are to have your hands on a true, authentic arrowhead.
Join a Historical or Archaeological Society.
Archaeological societies can teach you things you never knew before, and they also have experts on-hand who know which dealers of artifacts are legitimate and which ones aren’t. They can also inform you of ways to recognize fakes and give you a list of features to look for when shopping for arrowheads. They can answer more questions than you might be aware of and point you in the right direction if you are interested in purchasing real, authentic arrowheads.
FAQs about Arrowheads
Are All Triangular Stone Objects Arrowheads?
Unfortunately, no. If you are at an archaeological site and find a small, rectangle-shaped and pointed stone object, the truth is, it may or may not be an arrowhead. There are three different types of pointed shooting objects. These include darts, spears, and bows and arrows. Each type has a pointed tip but varies in thickness, weight, and shape. Of these three, arrowheads are the smallest.
Also, if you look at the damage on the edges, you’ll notice that some stone tools that resemble projective points may have been cutting tools at one time, not tools for propelling into animals. Arrowheads are usually made of stone, metal, shell, or glass, and they have a pointed end and some type of worked element which experts call the haft. The haft enables the point to be attached to a shaft, usually made of ivory or wood. The more you study photographs of authentic arrowheads, the more you’ll be able to recognize them when you find them in the ground.
Are the Smallest Arrowheads Used Only for Killing Birds?
No. Very small arrowheads are often called “bird points,” which makes many people think they are only able to kill birds and nothing else. This is another myth about arrowheads. Archaeologists have proved that even arrowheads that are one-half inch or smaller can still kill a deer or even a much larger animal. In fact, these types of arrowheads are true arrowheads, which means they were attached to arrows and used a bow. If you have a small arrow that is tipped with a bird point made of stone, that arrow can easily pass right through a bird, but it can eliminate much larger animals as well.
Are Hafted Tools with Round Ends Only for Stunning Prey and Not Killing It?
This one is also false. The stone tools that are known as stunners or blunt points are, instead, regular dart points which were reworked so that the pointy end is long and horizontal. At least one of the plane’s edges may have been sharpened on purpose, making them great for scraping. They also make great tools for working wood or animal hides, especially if they have a ready-made hafting element. These tools are officially called hafted scrapers, as a matter of fact. There is a lot of evidence that proves that repurposing and reworking older tools made of stone was very common in the past. In fact, there are many examples of lanceolate points that had been reworked into dart points for use with tools such as darts.
Are Arrowheads Made by Heating a Rock and Dripping Water On It?
Actually, no. Stone projectile points such as arrowheads are made through a complex process that consists of chipping and flaking the stone, called flint-knapping. For this process, flintknappers work on a raw piece of stone and shape it by hitting it with another stone, which is called percussion flaking. Another process sometimes used is called pressure flaking, and it involves using soft pressure and using either a deer antler or a piece of stone. One of these processes is enough to get the arrowhead into the size and shape that you want it in.
Does the Amount of Projective Points Found Indicate a Lot of Warfare Between Various Tribes Long Ago?
Not necessarily. In fact, after investigating the blood residues on many stone projectile points, it was determined that most of the DNA found came from animals and not humans. In fact, this is likely to mean that the projective points were used as hunting tools more often than warfare tools. Although warfare was a part of history long ago, it happened with much less frequency than people hunting for food. Another reason there are so many projectile points is that the technology is an extremely old one. In fact, people have been making these items for hunting for more than 200,000 years, which is why there are so many of them.
Doesn’t It Take a Long Time to Make an Arrow Point?
Some stone tools, including Clovis points, require a lot of time and skill in order to be made correctly, but, for the most part, it can take less than half an hour to make an arrowhead. Flintknappers with a lot of experience can make an arrowhead from beginning to end in less than 15 minutes. In fact, in the late 1800s, there was an anthropologist who timed an Apache making stone points in less than seven minutes each. Most of them do not require a lot of time to be developed properly.