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Old 05-28-2015, 06:56 PM   #1
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Finding an authentic ARROWHEAD while on the road... now what?

On another thread a person was intending on traveling the western USA to see how the Native Americans lived and learn to appreciate what was once a wild frontier. The Western USA is a great place to actually see WHERE the First Americans lived but how?

The last 2,000 years of the Southwest has plenty of archaeological sites to visit, well assembled museums and many in State and Federal Park status. People want to see... structures, tools and physical objects recovered in professional excavations. We are all curious about these things. Myself included.

The vast majority of Indians lived from the West Coast, Central Plains and East. Almost every bit of land had a human's footprint. Some areas more footprints than others. Draw a line from western Missouri, north to Canada and south to Mexico and EAST. Almost all private property. Cities were built upon the largest " ancient towns" and farms plowed under the rest to level their fields for crops. The majority of anything found on the surface once farming the surface began were picked up as novelties. Today a small fraction of what can still can be found washing out along small streams, rivers and farmland after harvest still remain.

Back to the Western USA. The earliest inhabitants on the Americas would be falling into the 7,000 to 15,000+ year old nomads called as a group, Paleo-Indians. Look up Clovis and Folsom to get yourself started. From post Ice Age to climate warming in the Plains... Indians migrated when the environment forced these nomadic people to move.

This story is long. I still have way too many archaeological books to haul around when we move. But... on Public Lands what you find of "lithic" or stone artifacts are protected. Protected more on the honor system, as 99% who encounter a stray flint "arrowhead" is going to pick it up and put it into their pocket of "Public Lands".

There is a vicious debate on what is right or wrong. It would take much too long to even introduce you to the conflict between the intellectual and the well educated collector of picking up "anything that could even resemble something that a human hand touched".

Private property is not included as Public, but still the professional archaeologist or anthropologist consider an artifact removed from its resting place of 2,000 years or 12,000 years as an additional bit of information... maybe yes or no.

It is not my place to debate that issue. My position is that you study up and know what you find is actually important, or not. I consider ALL Paleolithic, the ancient 7,000 year and older artifacts, very important. The exact location should be noted by GPS and at least offer this information, no matter where it was found, to a University Department of Anthropology in that area.

I consider everything between today and 7,000 years +/- as random finds on the surface of minor consideration. Most have no historical value or scientific value. But when the "Ice Age" artifact(s) are found... it is very important. In 10,000 years nobody is going to care about us or anyone who arrived on these continents before us. But this is... today, 2015, not 12015

I find a variety of lithic artifacts on Ranches and give them to the Rancher who was gracious to let us camp and explore. It is a part of their Ranch's history. I enjoyed the discovery. Almost 100% add nothing to the history of that region. There is no date embossed onto an artifact. Unlike coins and objects discovered in the western world that can have a date assigned, these artifacts took a hundred years to decipher the relative and approximate relative ages of each artifact. The Paleo Indian has been the most illusive of all.

To cut this short, which for me is not easy considering I enjoy this subject matter. I found a 7,000 year old base to an Ice Age elephant era hunters knife called an Agate Basin. One site near Roxborough Park, Colorado had mammoths associated with their points. It had been broken and removed from the handle some 7,000 years ago at the spot I found it. Not far from my home walking the dogs. It was too important to keep quiet so I sent it to the Denver Museum. It was made of a quartzite from Morrison, Colorado. There were three small flakes of other materials that were local, removed to sharpen some of his other blades or tools. Since it costs so much to catalog and the paperwork involved, the Museum thanked me, cataloged the point and returned it to me. I have it in my office with the loose flakes.

I love to hunt arrowheads, but when finding something that is "important to early man in the Americas"... you, like myself, must offer it up to someone who can add this to the current knowledge of migrations from Asia AND Europe just after the LAST Ice Age. These ARE IMPORTANT. The Clovis and related artifacts are among those of great importance. Found on the East Coast, Canada and found in the Western USA in scattered rare campsites, like ours.

At the Quemado, New Mexico camp for agates I would be happy to explain what I have said in this Thread.

These sites exist on private property though out the USA and Canada. Share the knowledge and some day pass the important pieces to a Museum, etc. Once this artifact has no label, no location, no information at all... it is worthless to all. I look at my Agate Basin Paleo Point and wonder what this person was thinking sitting on the hillside. It is a touch stone to the past. I will cherish it, but some day will give it to the Castle Rock Museum and hope they feel the same about it as I do. It beats an old typewriter or photograph of an unnamed person displayed on a shelf.

My brother makes perfect Paleo points and Artistic points from all kinds of Stones. You cannot tell them apart from an ancient artifact without difficulty. A Flint Knapper.

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Old 05-28-2015, 07:06 PM   #2
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I welcome to hear your stories, your finds, how you felt when discovering something that another human handled and manufactured a hundred or 10,000 years ago at the spot you are standing.

Collecting Indian Artifacts has been a hobby for thousands of Americans. Farmers were the first discovering artifacts while plowing with horse and mule. They kept a bucket to pick them up to sell in town when managing their fields.

You need not say where if you do not want to. The huge number of flint artifacts on the surface represent only a small percentage of what is still one inch or 50 feet below the surface. The term "arrowhead" has many meanings. A knife blade. A dart. A spear. An arrowhead intended to be used with a bow and arrow is small in comparison to most finds.

There were no "calibers of arrowheads" by size. Bird point. Elk point. Some arrows had hard wood tips in the American Southwest. Lithic Artifacts. Some uses no one is exactly sure what they were used for. As humans we all share an interest in this curious relic of the distant past. Some day our "tools" will be artifacts and displayed in a museum. And they will be so common that most will be considered not even worth picking up from the ground.

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Old 05-29-2015, 12:25 PM   #3
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One thing I have wondered is WHY there are so many artifacts. I have visited friends in the Southwest who have hundreds of arrowheads in glass frames on their walls that were collected casually by their ancestors who have lived on the land for generations. I know the same thing can be found in hundreds of other homes and collections through the Southwest. In a Native American store in Albuquerque, they had trays of arrowheads that you could buy for as low as a dollar and up depending on condition.

Archery is my hobby, and I can tell you that when any of us loses an arrow we will search up to a half hour or so before giving up, and probably will come back to search again on other days in case we might find it. I've seen people knapping arrowheads from obsidian, and it is quite a talent and time consuming to do.

So why are there so many arrowheads lying around? I would think they would have spent more time looking for them and maybe picking up other ones they might have found in the process.

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Old 05-29-2015, 06:04 PM   #4
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Flint Knapping was a Lost Art...

McDave... you are very observant.

Many of the so called "arrowheads" you see for sale for $1 to $3 are a flake with some notches and a tip made in China, India or someone in the USA who calls them "Apache Arrowheads". The intent is to sell to people who are not familiar with authentic points... arrowheads. Because of weight, a true arrowhead must be thin and usually no more than an inch long. Since the Indian depended on making a kill, the point and shaft had to be made very well.

The spear, dart and arrow flaked projectile were not the important piece. It was the shaft or arrow made of wood or hollow reeds in the case of some southwestern arrows. It took less time for the clan/tribal flint knapper to make the stone point, than someone who made the shaft to tie the point. At some excavated Paleo Indian sites the archaeologist could determine how many flint knappers were involved and tell each knapper's style by looking at it. Left and Right hand knapping has a style, as well as a tool made for a left or right handed user!

A knife could easily be sharpened by taking off the existing edge by "pressure flaking" and taking small chips off an edge. The edge can be sharper than a razor blade.

Obsidian is the easiest to work with. Agate and Quartzite the most difficult, but also less likely to break and keep a sharp edge longer and easily sharpened by pressure flaking the cutting edges. Obsidian is brittle and dulls easily... that is, will not hold an "edge".

Extra flint points were carried by Indians on the hunt. While chasing down game some points are lost. They are usually unused and perfect. I call them "strays". As they are found where nothing would be expected. Sometimes an Indian would sit at a spot where they could see game or other Indians for miles. At that time the broken points could be replaced or sharpened. An experienced individual can get a sense of what was happening at that spot by the size of flakes, variety of materials and location of these temporary rest stops. Long term camp sites will have stashed tools and points to recover, if ever. The Nomadic Indians in the West did not want to carry too much weight, so tried to find a place to stash their "goods" but many of these stashes are still unrecovered after hundreds or thousands of years later.

Any "artifacts" being offered for sale I also assume to be... fakes. Not that they are, but some knappers can produce a $1000 blade to perfection, age it by various means of the local material where these would be found.

There are MORE Paleo Indian projectiles (spear, dart and knives) existing today than made by the Native Americans! Much like counterfeiting rare coins that are very difficult to determine by anyone but experts. Ground axes made today with modern equipment to perfection to represent 1500 year old ones...

Most "lost arrows" are when the targeted game escapes and dies later. The wood shaft and game has long rotted leaving the stone point.

Most hunting Indians carried a "core of agate/obsidian" and would knock off a large flake when skinning their kill. The edges are sharper than surgical steel medical knives! When dulling... they drop it and knock off another large flake. So when you find in the Southwest flakes that could be held in the thumb and index finger... a disposable knife!

In northern Africa, Neolithic knives and arrow heads of expert workmanship, made from hard cherts and agates, are found when the sand is blown by winds, leaving the heavy points. The edges are so sharp, even I question if they are "old" or recently made. They are sold for $1 to $3 each. The locals find them by the bucket and sell them to International buyers, finding their way to the Tucson Rock Show in February.

I knapped ONE two inch knife blade from obsidian in my mid 20's. My middle finger knuckle swelled up and I found it very difficult to learn the angles to engage the flaking tools. One was enough for me. I kept it but will leave this work to the experts.

The professional flint knapper can show you the scars from the razor sharp flakes to produce one blade. It can take fifty to several hundred flake scars to shape one point. When you see one being produced, you will have an appreciation of what you have found laying on the ground!
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Old 05-30-2015, 06:36 PM   #5
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Stone points.

I was fortunate enough to have a old indian camp site on my ranch in eastern Colorado near a dry stream (which had obviously been a flowing stream many years previous as they would not have camped with out access to water. We could make out the fire pits, round tent sites and the spots where the knapers practiced their trade. I have many unfinished chips, complete points that were imperfect in the knapper's eyes. My parents Ranch in New Mexico also had camp sites on it so our family have hundreds of points in frames hanging on our walls. We treasure these finds. A few years ago near my present home I was talking to a rancher in his yard and saw a fine point laying at my feet. At first I put my foot on it thinking I would pick it up but thought better of it and picked it up and gave to the land owner. It was a beautiful point that I would have loved to add to my collections but it was rightfully his so he has it. I also have several axe heads and grinding stones used to grind their grain into flour. Hope you have the pleasure of finding some in your future.

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Old 05-30-2015, 07:00 PM   #6
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When I was 10 we moved to a home in Rural SW Michigan. I was full-blown bonkers over everything Indian/Native American. The home my parents bought was in a relatively sparsely populated stretch of woodland with heavy evidence of Native American habitation. On one of my first spring walks (after the spring ground heave) through the woods out behind our house I was fortunate enough to find a very nice arrowhead in the sand. Sadly, no others were found throughout the rest of my childhood there but it is a memory I will always treasure.
All that is gold does not always glitter...those who wander not always are lost....
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Old 05-30-2015, 07:31 PM   #7
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Growing up in SE New Mexico where there was miles and miles of sand, we played in the sand hills all the time. After a windy day the sand hills would move around. I don't recall finding any arrowheads but we did find a skeleton and some pottery that were uncovered after a sandstorm.
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Old 06-01-2015, 10:32 AM   #8
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Discoveries from a Plowed Corn Field

The Blue River just east of Independence, Missouri was the seed planted in the mind of a 14 year old and a bicycle.

A limestone quarry was my target to hunt for fossils and calcite crystals. The short cut was to ditch my bicycle along side the roadside in some bushes and cut across a freshly plowed corn field for turning the Fall crop for the Spring's planting.

This was when a plow would reach 14 inches or more into the earth and turn it over to the sunlight and precipitation for next year's planting.

While crossing this field I noticed something... peculiar. A light bluish glint upon the top of a ridge of turned clumped soil. A well made stone "arrowhead" with the base missing, intended to mount it. It was something you would read about within a text book, but the thought of actually finding one was outside the question.

It was a Hopewell Indian arrow point or dart from about 800AD - 1200AD. Pot shards were to be found. Small flakes of flint and chert scattered about like leaves under a tree. The summers from school took on a new meaning.

Over the next several years a number of Indian camps were to be found. This one I first found is glued to an Index Card and says #1, Sept. 1964. Independence, Missouri, T49N R31W, Section 1. This scribbled card has followed me for 51 years and always pinned to a wall near my desk as a reminder of a youth well spent.

If such a small object could influence a young boy's life and add adventure of discovery, imagine what you could do with your son or grandson on a similar adventure. Watching HDTV or playing a digital hand held device has created a lethargic population of unimaginative youth with no purpose for discovery. It is lost with modern trappings.

Today I can pick up a flake of an obscure hillside and understand what I have found. The material is examined as possible sources of the material and the distance it might have traveled to get to this spot.

That young spirit remains with me today. The memory of this and other finds are individual discoveries of value. One of my finds ended up within the Missouri Archaeologist... a clay doll of fired clay from a Hopewell Indian site, long lost and within a trash pit of their own making.

You are never too old to become young again. The sense of discovery and understanding what you have found will evolve into a pastime that destroys nothing that a plow or a home's basement being excavated has not already displaced.

When all else fails, a metal detector can replace a gym. There is no limit to the nails, pull tabs, buttons and lost change to be found in fields that are overgrown and void of anyone's interest, but yours. The rewards might be little, but you will never sit at home and wonder... what can I do today?
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:43 AM   #9
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Growing up in Oklahoma, Native Americans were a part of our culture and identity. A friends mom dealt in Indian artifacts. she would make some deal with the farmers to be able to scour the fields after they have plowed in the spring. I have a small plastic case with some "flakes" that I found while going on one of these adventures. thanks for bringing those memories back Ray.
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Old 06-17-2015, 09:12 AM   #10
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I grew up on a ranch in Texas located on the Brazos River in the east central part of the state. The school bus dropped me off a couple of miles from my house and one of my shortcuts crossed a pasture with Brahma bulls. Those things scared me to death but it was worth it because I found many arrowheads there. I ended up with a cigar box full of them. It didn't seem like anything extraordinary at the time. I recall trading them to my cousins in Vermont for some baseball cards.

I used to take long horseback rides out to an artesian spring (best water I ever had). On one of those trips I found ordinance of a more modern variety - an ammo belt with live rounds of an unknown large caliber. Strung it across my saddle and brought it home which totally freaked out my parents when I rode up. My father checked with various authorities and we never did figure out where it came from. We gave it to Texas A&M.

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Old 06-17-2015, 09:43 AM   #11
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I have been reading a book "In Search of the Old Ones" about the ancients in our preparation for my great adventure with Ray Eklund & co next month.

Many references in this book to protecting the Outdoor in leaving artifacts laying at the sites where they are found, so history can be preserved as well as be enjoyed by others. Not what has occurred in the past, of course.

The reference is more to dwellings and the surrounding areas than the odd arrowhead here and there, but it is a concept to pay mind to, in my opinion.

Arrowheads turn up in the fields here every spring and fall, and have always been collected by those lucky enough to find them. Never an issue. Indian mounds elsewhere in Illinois are protected.

Ray tells us that Indian ruins will be all around us, where we will be camping.

I am looking forward to seeing them.....and taking pictures.


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