Arrowheads range from tiny carved arrow points to stone knife blades and large spear heads. Typically arrowheads are made of chipped flint or other stone, bone, or ceramic. Certain types of arrowheads, such as Clovis, Billings and Oxbow, have historically been found in Wyoming. There is an art to consistently finding arrowheads. Arrowheads must be sought out carefully, and the arrowhead hunter must pay deference to local laws. Arrowhead hunting has become a controversial act, because not all arrowhead hunters follow ethical codes when they hunt for arrowheads. Hunting arrowheads in a careless manner can result in damage to artifacts and the loss of potential historical knowledge.
Look for potential village sites or campsites using a topographic map. Although Native Americans frequently lost arrowheads during hunts, far more were abandoned in villages and campsites. You will have the best luck finding arrowheads in these abandoned settlements. Good sites for hunting include the banks or dry beds of ancient rivers and streams where wildlife would have been abundant, and terraces that were once the banks of ancient floodplains.
Talk to local residents or people who work in the area you are searching. Local legends may point the way to ancient settlements. Additionally, loggers or farmers may have seen something helpful at some point, and may be willing to advise you.
Search early in the day. The light from early morning until noon is best for arrowhead sightings.
Walk over surfaces that have been exposed due to erosion, farming, or construction. Farming and construction sites are less likely to produce whole arrowheads. The action of earth movers often chips and breaks these artifacts. Walk in a grid pattern, sweeping your eyes from right to left and back again in a fan shape, scan the ground. Walk in a narrow grid when you see signs such as worked stone. Walk in a looser grid when you see no signs.
Explore village or camp sites after heavy rainstorms, as these storms will often uncover arrowheads. A rainstorm sufficient to uncover artifacts must rain at least 3 inches in a short period of time. As you explore, look for variations in color in the soil. Most artifacts are a different color than the soil.
Examine worked stone, but do not save it. Worked stone includes chips of stone that have been discarded in the process of making arrowheads and other tools. The presence of worked stone may indicate arrowheads nearby. You will find worked stone in much greater quantities than you will find arrowheads.
Search creeks for arrowheads that have been carried there by erosion.
Always keep records concerning the location of your find. An arrowhead find can help point archeologists to potential future digs.
Be aware of your surroundings. Hunting arrowheads may take you into dangerous territory with uneven terrain or wild animals. Always take the proper precautions before you set out into the wild.
Arrowheads found on private property belong to the property owner. Always ask permission before taking artifacts. Hunting arrowheads on public land is almost always prohibited. Know local laws before you hunt on public land.
Do not dig when searching for arrowheads. If you dig up a site, you may be destroying evidence that archeologists could use to learn more about the site’s inhabitants. Archeologists rely on the order of deposited sediments and trash, called midden to determine how and when events happened at the site.
Be choosy about who you tell about the location of your find. For example, an archeologist is more likely to be responsible about exploring a potential dig site than a treasure hunter, who may dig the site up.
- indian arrowhead image by Jim Mills from Fotolia.com