Archeological artifacts are fascinating legacies from past cultures that can teach us about the practices and lifestyles of vanished peoples. Although the term usually brings up images of lost tombs and gleaming treasures in the popular imagination, most artifacts tend to be more low-key. Arrowheads from Native American cultures are a common example in North America. They can be found almost anywhere that Native Americans lived or traveled in places like creeks and rivers.
Read up on Native American settlements or migration routes in your region. Ancient people tended to live and migrate along rivers and other freshwater sources for practical reasons. Cross-reference this with modern maps to identify creeks where Native American hunters might have dropped arrowheads.
Get permission from the owner of the land where you plan to search for arrowheads. Plan your expedition so that you can go searching when the water level of the creek is at its lowest. Take care to wear rubber boots and other appropriate apparel if you are going to be wading into water.
Focus your efforts on bends in the creek where there is a buildup of debris. Use your rake to remove as much of the debris as possible before using your trowel to load scoopfuls of sand into your sieve to check for arrowheads. Both your rake and your trowel are best if they are made of plastic. If not, you'll need to take extra care to avoid damaging possible artifacts while sifting through the sand.
Check the roots of any trees lining the creek because tangled roots can catch and hold onto small artifacts such as arrowheads. You probably won't be able to move the roots to any great extent, so use your trowel to dig around in the sand and to load up your sieve.
Separate arrowheads from anything else that you might find during your search. Native American arrowheads tend to resemble an isosceles triangle in shape, and they total less than 2 inches in length. Most are made of a knappable stone, which is glassy, almost crystalline, and fractures like glass. Flint and obsidian are prominent examples. Check to see if the artifact has a point or protrusion where it could've been attached to a shaft and whether flakes have been knapped off on both sides of the artifact to give it the right shape.
Store any arrowheads that you find into a zip bag because old arrowheads can be very fragile after sitting so long exposed to the elements.
Things You'll Need
- Zip bags
- Rubber boots
- Books and other resources about local native settlements
The landscape can change over the years. You want to limit your search to creek beds that existed during the times when Native American hunters could've left arrowheads and other articles. Use older maps of your region to check if you are unsure.
Avoid searching for arrowheads on government-owned property because you are not permitted to take them with you. Similarly, do not enter private property unless you get permission.
Alan Li started writing in 2008 and has seen his work published in newsletters written for the Cecil Street Community Centre in Toronto. He is a graduate of the finance program at the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce and has additional accreditation from the Canadian Securities Institute.