Identifying American Indian Arrowheads

By Bryan Lutz ; Updated April 12, 2017
Because there are so many types of arrowheads, outside references are necessary for identification.

Native American arrowheads can be found almost anywhere in the United States and are a popular find amongst museums and collectors alike. Different tribes from different regions used their own methods for creating and designing these weapons, resulting in each arrowhead having characteristics unique to the tribe and region that created it. Knowing this, it is possible to identify arrowheads by tribe using clues given by both the make of the arrowhead and the location it was found.

Gently clean any dirt or other debris from your arrowhead using cool water and a soft towel before beginning the identification process.

Acquire the proper reference books or online databases needed to identify the arrowheads. Your local library should have reference books on Native American arrowheads and rock identification. See the Resource section for additional references.

Ascertain where you found the arrowhead. This will allow you to search by state or by region and will significantly narrow your results. If you are having difficulty finding out where it came from, try to analyze what kind of rock it's made of using your rock reference guide. Certain types of rock are indigenous to certain areas; the additional information could help narrow your search.

Examine the arrowhead. Observe the shape of the arrowhead including the slope of the barbs found near the projectile's base and the shape of the arrow itself. The stem, if there is one, and the arrow's shape are often indicative of what tribe crafted it

Compare all of the observable characteristics of your arrowheads to those found in the region you believe the arrowhead to be from.

Things Needed

  • Arrowhead reference book or online database
  • Rock reference book or database

About the Author

Bryan Lutz began writing professionally in 2009. He has been published in his collegiate newspaper, "The Signal," as well as various literary magazines. Lutz holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative/professional writing from The College of New Jersey.