Friday, February 1, 2008

Hunting Arrowheads

Sample article from the Society's January 2007 Update newsletter.
Traces of Kershaw County’s Native American past lie in its soil. Want to try hunting? Here are tips and rules to go by.

By Denver Hunter, with Randy Jackson

Arrowhead hunting is addicting— that’s what anybody who has ever found an arrowhead will tell you. It’s a sport, a game to be played for that matter, but it is also so much more.

These stone relics are the tools of survival of a race of people that literally founded America. They put these items to good use to survive the cold winters, as well as the stifling Carolina summers.

When you find an arrowhead, you find a legacy. A Native American once used this tool to make dinner or protect himself. Some of the arrowheads were even used to hunt the mastodon in what would much later become the state of South Carolina.

The craftsmanship of these tools are beyond anything we’re familiar with. I was once told that a sharpened arrowhead is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. While not exactly sure of the validity of the statement, I have found some arrowheads that would seem to prove this statement true.

For anyone interested in the hunt, it is well worth the time and effort. There are a few key details that are worth knowing when you start out. Some of us have to learn them the hard way, and frustrations can certainly mount, but the key is to concentrate and be smart about what you do.

One of the very first things to note is that the term arrowhead is a misnomer. An arrowhead is a relatively recent invention that came into being with the bow about 1,400 to 1,500 years before the present. Older artifacts called arrowheads oftentime are actually points in reality.

These would have been fitted on an atlatl, which is a type of spear-launching device. This contraption allowed for spear points to be thrown much harder than they would have been otherwise with the human arm.

This is why some of the giant points seem impossible to fit on an arrow shaft. However, I would not discourage the use of arrowheads as a term, because the idea behind the name is pure.

Now that you have entered into the hunt a little wiser, we have a couple of tips that will save you time, encourage success, and heighten the enjoyment of the experience:


The first tip is to have good shoes. Arrowhead hunting involves a lot of walking. It’s absolutely great exercise, so consider that an added caveat. It’s not a miracle diet, but you’ll feel better in more ways than one. We recommend wearing boots or a good solid tennis shoe, depending upon what kind of territory you are covering.


Make sure to bring plenty of water for long outings. Staying hydrated is crucial. It’s easy to get lost in the hunt and forget that the last drink of water was taken hours ago. We would also suggest bringing along some food if you are going to search for an extended period.


One of the most useful implements you can have is a good sharp stick or rod. If push comes to shove, you can always find a solid, fallen limb that will do the trick. An insider secret is to take an old golf club and cut the head off of it. Either way, a good stick will save your back and legs.


Scout areas ahead of time. One of the major issues that frustrate many artifact seekers is looking in the wrong area. Pay attention to place names, talk to locals, find out as much information as you can about the area you plan to search.

There are certain characteristics to where the camps will be found. A source of water is vital to finding the right spot. Sometimes this source may have long since dried up.

The point is to know the terrain. We won’t share too many more secrets, but water is the first big step. Arrowheads are fairly numerous, so it’s not too difficult to find locations.

It’s always a good idea to go hunting after a good hard rain, as well. This will often uncover arrowheads in the same area.


When you search, focus on the ground. It wouldn’t hurt to become familiar with some of the basic rock types such as quartz and chert. A degree in geology is not required by any stretch of the imagination, but being familiar with rock types is a positive.

Try to concentrate and get into "the zone." Spend a few moments admiring the beautiful countryside or thinking about something you find calming.

Also keep track of where you have been to the best of your ability, as looking over the same ground in the same outing is not advised. Do not be afraid to return to a site in the future, though.


Do not hesitate to bring back a pocket full of rocks. You might get an occasional laugh by more experienced seekers, but you will find that this is a good way to learn. Sometimes, even with experience, those pieces that might be overlooked turn out to be worked.

This is a great way to train yourself to look for the edges and shapes, and not the rock material. You want to find other instruments besides the flint and other quartz rock type located in our area.

You can always return the rocks to their natural habitats in your back yard once you’re done. These discards are often referred to jokingly as wishing rocks/stones or love rocks. Looks can be deceiving.


Most of the arrowheads you find will be damaged. A perfect (or near perfect) arrowhead is a find indeed.

Do not discard the broken ones. A broken arrowhead can be a heartbreak, but do not get frustrated.


Internet research or book research is a good thing. You can learn about arrowheads by looking at examples or reading up on them. We recommend The Official Overstreet Indian Arrowheads Identification and Price Guide as well as pointing your web browser to a good search engine.

It’s not the monetary value that counts; these resources will help you date the arrowheads. You’ll find that they range from 10,000 years old to a couple hundred years old.


Our most important recommendation comes in the form of respect. There are important sites located all around our area. Some of them are widely known, others are not.

If you ever come across a site that you suspect to be a burial ground or anything of the sort, do not pick up anything. Please remember that these were people too, and in this knowledge, all burial sites should be respected. They are protected by state and federal laws as well.

Also respect the current owners of the land as well. Don’t hunt on property that would be in violation of the law. Violations of these simple guidelines are frowned upon for good reasons.

The authors may be contacted at
Photo: Arrowhead Display by Liberty Hill postmaster C.D. Cunningham, early 1900s.

No comments: