Every so often I like to take a break from metal detecting to search for Native American artifacts. It's always exciting when you find a Native American projectile point. A projectile point is an object fashioned out of stone, bone, metal, shell, wood, ivory or other material, that is capable of being projected or thrown and would have been hafted or attached to a haft or a shaft that was made most likely from wood, reed, or bone. The hafting process essentially makes the projectile point a more deadly and effective hunting tool. Native American projectile points come in many shapes and sizes and are made from a variety of different materials. They were primarily used for hunting, occasionally used for fishing, and at times used for combat.
Native Americans used the materials that were locally available to them to construct the projectile points that they used. When choosing stones to create projectile points, the Native Americans selected strong stones that could be sharpened and were light enough to fly through the air. For example they used stones such as flint, obsidian, chert, quartz, agate, or chalcedony. In our area of NY state, you can frequently find projectile points made from flint. Flint is a type of sedimentary rock. It is extremely durable, highly resistant, very, very hard, and can be easily flaked. Flint is also resistant to erosion and does not decay. It has been used for centuries as a material for making tools. Flint comes in various colors such as grey, black or brown. The Spring is an excellent time to go searching for Native American projectile points. The ground is soft and the topsoil is often washed away. Exposed soil is really the key to your success. Projectile points are generally easier to spot after a heavy rainfall. If you have never searched for projectile points before, it can be difficult to recognize the difference between a point and a rock. You will want to first familiarize yourself with what flint looks like. You essentially need to train your eyes to look for flint in the wild, but you obviously can't do that if you don't know what it even looks like. Check out pictures online. You could also visit a local museum and check out their Native American artifacts that are on display. The NY State museum in Albany, NY has Native American projectile points and other artifacts on display. Once you have an idea of the type of stone you should be looking for, you'll need to locate an area that was once inhabited by Native Americans. The best way to do this is research obviously. Start with learning more about the Native American tribes from your area. Learn about their tribal habits. Native American camps were always located near a water source. Without water they simply would not have been able to survive. You'll want to check out elevated places that overlook the water source. Also, natural shelters, such as rock overhangs, are an area where Native American camps might have been located. Before hunting any spot you'll first need to secure permission from the land owners.
If you think you have discovered an area that a Native American tribe once inhabited, you'll want to search the area slowly and systematically. Search for flakes or chips of flint in the area. The process of making a projectile point is called knapping. When projectile points are being made, a series of long, thin flakes are removed, one by one, from the rock. Knapping produces a great number of flakes before the point is completed and suitable for use. If you are in an area where a Native American camp was once located, you will find lots and lots of flakes. Flint is slightly porous though and flakes or fractures can occur naturally as well through thermal expansion and contraction. So you'll want to learn to identify the difference between a flint flake that is man made and one that occurred naturally.
If you discover an area with a lot of flint flakes or chips, the odds are really good that there are projectile points at that location waiting to be found. I like to search in a grid style, back and forth. It's really easy to miss an artifact completely if you don't examine the area thoroughly. Sometimes only part of the projectile point will be showing and the rest will be covered completely in dirt. You might spot just an edge, a tip, or part of the base like an ear. I like to pick up and check out each piece of flint or flake that I spot. Honestly, sometimes you just don't know if it's a projectile point until you flip it over or pull it completely from the surrounding dirt. I've found several worked pieces that way.
The presence of flake scars indicates that you have found a worked piece. The surface of a projectile point will be covered entirely with flake scars from where all the flakes were removed. Projectile points also all have some of the same basic attributes such as a tip, a blade, and a base. I still remember the moment when I found my first point. It was an incredible sight to see it lying there on the ground. Prior to actually discovering it, I used to question whether every single, little, broken piece of flint I found could possibly be a part or portion of a point. In that instance, when I finally discovered my first, I just simply knew. I knew I had finally found one and everything just kind of clicked into place for me after that. Honestly, the first one was the hardest to find. Since discovering my first I have found probably about forty others and with every single one I've discovered I have just simply known without question that it's a projectile point. Once you know, you just know.
Don't get discouraged and give up. Your first hunt probably won't end in success. Your first several may not, but if you spend some time searching, in the right areas, during the right conditions, the odds are really good you'll discover a projectile point eventually. Search farm fields after they have been plowed or post harvest. Creeks are another great area to search. You'll want to time it accordingly so that the water levels are low or at their lowest. Search where the soil erosion is exposed. An area where two creeks or streams come together is an area where animals like to go to drink water. That also means it could be an area where the Native Americans hunted. The woods is another area where you might discover some Native American artifacts. The landscape today may look very different than it did all those years ago. Ponds, lakes or creeks that you see today very well could have been a dry meadow or just a seasonal creek and areas that are now dry, could have been a shallow pond. You need to consider the ever changing landscape when searching for projectile points. I always like to try to envision what the campsite would have looked like all those years ago. One thing is for sure there are Native American artifacts still out there today just waiting to be found. I hope this blog was helpful to someone. If you have found any projectile points or other Native American artifacts, please leave a comment or post a picture in the section below. Please feel free to share any searching tips that have brought you success too. Happy Hunting!