Arrowhead and Projectile Point Collecting : Kill Zones and How to Find Them
The Thrill of the First Find
“I’ve found one” came the excited voice from across the field. The young woman had just found her first projectile point and was very excited. She had accompanied her husband to this recently plowed field because he enjoyed looking for arrowheads as well as other projectile points and artifacts.
She really wasn’t too keen on being here at all, but as of yet, she hadn’t complained. Now as she held an almost perfectly preserved point, her hand was trembling. She was the last to leave the field that afternoon and subsequently found two more nice projectile points before the day was over.
Beautiful and Deadly
Evidence of Ancient Hunts
What Drives An Arrowhead Collector?
Finding a perfect arrowhead or other projectile point has made collectors of many such people. There is a great difference between seeing these wonderful objects in a museum or private collection, and finding one yourself close to where it lay unseen for perhaps many centuries.
Knowing you are the first person to see the point in perhaps 10,000 years or more probably has something to do with it. Right here in this very spot a kill was made, either that or the animal escaped and later died. If the point is undamaged the latter could very well be the case.
In this Coastal Plains area of southern Georgia an unbroken point would be salvaged and used again as the source of high quality flint could be over 50 miles away. Thus the point may have been originally a different shape than it now appears.
Reminders of Ancient American Life
In the Mind of the Hunters
Experienced collectors of Native American projectile points know where to look to increase their chances of a find. This land of ancient swamps and forests provided ample opportunity for the Paleolithic hunters to find the large animals their families needed for food and clothing.
Although points will be found in all areas, there are some spots which may yield hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful points. In the south Georgia area these will usually be on high ground around sources of water, something essential to both humans and their prey.
A good artifact collector can almost picture the landscape as it was then, how the forest looked, and how the swamps once covered the area. Also the best places from where to launch an attack on their prey. All of these things are important to take in consideration when looking for points and artifacts.
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A productive zone
Kill Zones : How they were used
Typical “kill zones” consist of areas frequently bordered on two or three sides by ancient swamps and springs. Ancient hunters apparently used these spots to ambush their intended prey. The swamps prevented the animals from escaping easily due to the water and mud slowing their flight.
At this time these swamps were home to huge alligators and other predators which also deterred escape through this route. Or perhaps the hunters used the swamps to ambush the creatures when they came to drink. Either way, these same areas had to have been used for thousands of years indicated by the number of points found there.
When the land is turned by plows in the spring more points keep showing up in the stone free soil. Because of the light patina caused by the elements over the centuries, these points stand out against the dark earth of the former swamps.
This land was covered with water for thousands of years before the last ice age. When the water retreated it left huge areas of shallow lakes and bays. The Okefenokee swamp is one of these famous morasses with smaller examples scattered in surrounding areas.
Some of the land covers vast limestone deposits and underground rivers. When the water table drops, the limestone above them will sometimes collapse leaving lime sinks which also provided places for animals to drink. The giant Pleistocene creatures obviously frequented these places because of the enormous number of large points found there.
We can only guess as to how these hunts were conducted or how many hunters took part in the actual chase. We know these people would chase bison and other herd animal over cliffs to obtain meat, but in this part of the country there are no cliffs to stampede them over.
Other methods had to have been used to corner the prey. Here, the swamps and bogs seem to have served this purpose. Perhaps ten or more hunters cast spears at the same animal as this would explain the large number of points found, but this is mere speculation. Whatever the reason, these spots exist and are a projectile point collector’s dream.
All finds from the same kill zone.
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Weapons and tactics used by the ancient hunters
Some actual arrowheads are found but bows weren’t in use until relatively late in the Native American time line. For the most part, spear points make up the bulk of the artifacts collectors find in these kill zones. When humans first arrived in North America they had perfected the atlatl. For this time in history the spear, powered by the atlatl, was the top-of-the-line weapon of choice. This marvelous object enabled a hunter to impel his spear with several times the force of a hand launched projectile.
This short stick acted as an extension of the throwing arm by hooking onto the rear of the spear shaft to give added power to the throw. A strap on the throwing end prevented the atlatl from being thrown with the spear. Sometimes ornate stones would be used for added weight and force. In some cases these are butterfly shaped and are highly prized by collectors.
During extreme droughts creeks and rivers are prime spots for projectile collectors. Again, sources of water for man and beast. This depends on the type of terrain and soil in the area as erosion can change the topography over a period of centuries. What is now a valley was once a shallow depression in which a small creek flowed. Every time it rains a small bit of soil washes a little further down the slope.
It is important to think about how the land looked thousands of years ago. In this area the once vast swamplands have been drained for farmland so very little erosion has taken place. The highland on the edge of these ancient mires seem to be a good place to search for points, especially when the land abruptly falls away toward a creek or river. In these places a person can accidentally find several exquisite points in a day while working in the fields.
Try to visualize how the land may have looked centuries before. The valleys were not as deep then as the soil hadn’t washed downhill into the streams and eventually to a river. The swamps were deeper too as silt and peat would not have accumulated on the bottom of the shallow sinks. Even the springs were not as eroded as they are today. By visualizing these important features you can get an idea of dry land areas used for hunting or ambushing the giant animals. This will often give you an idea of the best place to look for projectile points. The topography of the area dictates the most used hunting locations.
In the spring when the fields are harrowed and plowed an airplane ride helps to locate prime artifact hunting grounds. One can see where the ancient swamps once existed by the dark color of the soil. From above, it is possible to tell where the animal trails followed the high ground, weaving in and out among the wet areas. The object is to find an elevated field with several openings leading to it. By cutting off these entrances and exits the hunters could trap the animals inside for a more productive hunt. The odds for finding good points in such a spot are greatly increased .
These same areas were also used for campsites as evidenced by the pottery shards and grinding stones found. Again, these objects come from a later time when the giant Pleistocene animals no longer existed. It shows that this land remained a prime hunting spot for centuries until the land was cleared and settled. Modern hunters still use these spots to find their quarry as their ancestors did eons ago. We still use lessons learned from those amazing people, lessons learned well because obtaining food was a life or death ritual for these ancient folk.
Collecting these reminders of our past is a unique hobby, if indeed that is what it is. But there is so much more involved than mere collecting. These points represent utility, drama, beauty, hope, joy, art, and of course, survival. The imagination soars when one is found. What happened at this spot ? Was it a mastodon they were chasing? We will never know, but these early Americans have left us some clues to their lives from thousands of years in the past. In this they were more successful than we are today. What object from your daily life will be found 10,000 years into the future.
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