How to Date Indian Arrowheads

by Dell Markey

There are several methods of dating Indian arrowheads. Obsidian arrowheads are often dated using the hydration method. Dating an arrowhead this way requires cutting a piece of it off and measuring how much water it has absorbed. Archaeologists often excavate areas where arrowheads have been found and conduct Carbon 14 testing to date arrowheads.These methods are beyond the expertise and resources of the average Indian arrowhead enthusiast. However, there are some things any Indian arrowhead collector can do to date Indian arrowheads.

Find Indian arrowheads. Consider looking in newly plowed fields, construction or excavation sites, riverbanks, gullies, creeks and washouts.Collectors often find Indian arrowheads wherever digging is occurring.

Identify the region where the arrowhead was found. If you found it yourself, you already have this information. If you obtained the arrowhead from someone else, ask them where they got it from. Indian tribes in different locations developed similar arrowhead designs during different historical periods.You may have to do a little backtracking and fact finding, but knowing where the arrowheads were found will give you some important clues when you try to date Indian arrowheads.

Compare your arrowheads to other arrowheads. Look for similarities, particularly with other arrowheads found near the locations your arrowheads were found.One of the best places to look for arrowheads of similar design is in an arrowhead price guide such as The Official Overstreet Identification & Price Guide to Indian Arrowheads. Museums are another place to look for arrowheads to help date your arrowheads. When comparing your arrowhead with other arrowheads, compare the shape of the various parts of the arrowheads. Look for similarities in the points, the neck, the haft, the notches, and the base of the arrowheads. Look also for similarities in the chipping on the arrowheads. Similarities in the chipping indicate similar methods were used to create the arrowheads. After comparing your arrowheads to as many others as you can, note the types of arrowheads most similar. Whether you compared the arrowheads with pictures in a price guide, or arrowheads displayed at museums, the type and time period of the arrowheads will usually be noted, allowing you to get a general idea of when your arrowheads were likely constructed. The time periods for dating Indian arrowheads differ somewhat depending on where they were found. For arrowheads found in the middle and eastern United States, the dating periods of Indian arrowheads include Paleo (12000 to 7000 BC), Archaic (8000-1000 BC), Woodland (1000 BC to 700 AD), Mississippian (700 AD to 1600 AD) and historic (1600 AD to 1830 AD). Arrowheads found in the western United States are catagorized as Palep (12000 to 6000 BC), Archaic (6000 to 300 BC), Transitional (300 BC to 400 AD), Developmental (400 to 1300 AD), Classic (1300 to 1600 AD) and Historic (1600 to 1830 AD).

Consider attending archaeological summits such as those put on periodically by the Piedmont Society. At summits, you will have access to collectors and experts who can help date your arrowheads more precisely.

Tip

  • Be aware that if you have an older point, you might actually have an atlatl ( a spear propelled by a notched stick) point rather than an arrowhead.

Warning

  • Be aware that there are many fake Indian arrowheads crafted to be sold as souvenirs. These are often portrayed as genuine.

About the Author

Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.

Photo Credits