Finding Ozarks Arrowheads

31 Jan

By: Rick Smith (Ozarks Quail Farm)

As we start thinking about spring, life along James River will come alive with the river culture that has made it so famous. Since I was a small boy in the 50’s some of my finest memories are arrowhead hunting with my uncle along the river bottoms.

Group of Ozarks natives looking for arrowheads at Long Creek

Our Native Americans lived up and down the river for centuries. They left behind a lot of their lifestyle if you now where to look. As the farmers along the river plowed their spring fields we started our arrowhead hunting trips in the freshly turned dirt. Even after the many years have past there is still many artifacts that work their way to the surface. Finding hundreds of heads of different sizes, axe heads, drill bits, scrappers, etc. over the years. Another great way to find them is to search the creek beds that are dry except when we get a good rain. It takes a keen eye but they are hidden among the other creek rocks. If you want to try head hunting  please remember to ALWAYS ASK PERMISSION to enter these farmers land and do not mess anything up. If you don’t it will ruin it for us all. ‘Good Rock Huntin’!

Rick Smith

 

Did You Really Find an Arrowhead?

By: H. W. “Pete” Peterson (Missouri Archaeological Society)

Most likely not, although it is quite common for the average person to refer to most stone projectile points as arrowheads. Surprising as it may seem, most of the stone points commonly found along waterways or farmer’s fields probably never saw the end of an arrow. The simple reason is that the bow and arrow was a rather recent invention and came into general use by Native Americans only about 1,600 to 1,100 years ago. In contrast, consider that the first Americans may have arrived at least 13,000 years ago, and perhaps even earlier.

The true arrowhead is actually a very small point and seldom more than 11Ú2 inches long. Although sometimes referred to as “bird points,” they were used to kill not only birds but large animals as well, such as deer. The other projectile points we find are either too large to be arrowheads or were manufactured before the bow and arrow came into use. They are most likely tools such as scrapers and knives, spear points, or dart points used along with the atlatl for thousands of years before the bow and arrow. It’s possible that the first Americans may have brought the atlatl with them as they made their way into the Americas. This important innovation consisted of a spear mounted on a throwing stick. Inserted at the end of the spear was a dart tipped with a stone or bone point. With the atlatl, a hunter could throw a spear with much greater speed and distance than with the arm alone. Upon impact, the dart remained imbedded in the target as the spear bounced back and separated from the dart.

The most common arrowhead types found in and around the southwest drainage region of Missouri (and northern Arkansas) include Scallorn notched, Reed side notched, Mississippian triangles, and Crisp ovate. Please recognize that many variations of these point types will be found.

You will find that almost points all were made of flint (commonly called chert in the Ozarks) or quartzite. The chipped flint or chert is satin smooth and comes in many colors, whereas quartzite has a grainy appearance and is usually whitish or grayish white. Quartzite is a harder material and more difficult to work than flint. Although there may be quartzite arrowheads, flint seems to be the stone of choice based on the arrowheads that I have found.

A recommended reading is the handbook Indians and Archaeology of Missouri, by Carl H. and Eleanor Chapman (available from the MAS).

Webmaster’s note: The Prehistory of Missouri, by M. J. O’Brien and W. R. Wood, is another fine reference on Missouri archaeology (also available from the MAS).


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