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Arrowhead and Projectile Point Collecting : Kill Zones and How to Find Them

Updated on November 7, 2012
Randy Godwin profile image

During his long lifetime, Randy has collected Native American artifacts as well as studied all about America's first residents.

Projectile Points From a South Georgia "kill zone."
Projectile Points From a South Georgia "kill zone." | Source

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 from a "kill zone"
Evidence from a "kill zone"

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.

A productive zone

A small sample of the many points found in this one "kill zone."
A small sample of the many points found in this one "kill zone."
Another view of the Dalton point
Another view of the Dalton point
Hundreds of other points found in the zone.
Hundreds of other points found in the 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.

Very few actual "arrowheads" are found in the kill zone
Very few actual "arrowheads" are found in the kill zone
More arrowheads
More arrowheads
These are spear points, most two inches or bigger
These are spear points, most two inches or bigger
Even more points
Even more points
Thousands of years of hunting in the same kill zone as evidenced by these points
Thousands of years of hunting in the same kill zone as evidenced by these points

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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    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Me too, Edwin! Now if I can just get these other articles researched and written so I can get to it! :)

    • profile image

      Edwin Brown 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Looking forward to it, Randy!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hey Edwin! I'm working on a hub now telling the best place to check out the age and type of points one may find. This hub should be finished shortly so keep a lookout for it!

      The ancients often combined utility with beauty as they recognized both, just as we do today. I am often pleased with the combination on points I find here in Georgia.

      Thanks for your time and input on this subject.


    • profile image

      Edwin Brown 6 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Nice job, Randy. I used to hunt arrowheads on our farm in Oregon. We got mostly small bird points, with an occasional larger one that might have been a spear point.

      Some of the little points were quite artistic. Someone told me he thought they were decorative primarily. I found a beautiful stone knife about twenty five feet from our living room window, in the garden.

      It sure would be nice to know how old these things are.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 8 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Hello Stacy, glad you enjoyed the read. Yes, replica arrowheads are sold, but like you, I wonder why someone would buy one. Thanks for the comments!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 8 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks Gus,the photos do not do the points justice. I'll try to put some better ones on later. i appreciate you checking out my article.

    • Stacie L profile image

      Stacie L 8 years ago

      this is interesting...

      I knew someone who made money making them...I don't know why anyone would buy a "new " arrowhead.

      Found a lot when I lived in Arizona.

      Good hub:=)

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 8 years ago from USA

      Hi Randy... That was a great article, and the photos were something else again, too. Have fun today! Gus

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 8 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thank you loveofnight. The points themselves are fascinating and tell a story of our ancient past. I appreciate your input.

    • loveofnight profile image

      loveofnight 8 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

      i find this fascinating and your hub is very informative.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 8 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks ralwus, I love collecting these beautiful objects.

    • profile image

      ralwus 8 years ago

      Well well, another collector. I have my won humble collection. Don't get out much anymore to look for them. I also came from a farm, wayy back when in the last century. Seems like a hunert years ago. Yeah, plowed fields are the best 'round here, and right after a rain they seem to pop like mushrooms all shiny. Nice comprehensive hub ya have here my man.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, RD! That would be great fun!

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 8 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Thanks Holle, next spring we will turn the soil in this field for the first time in many years. There should be some awesome new finds. I will let you know when to come.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Randy, this is an awesome article - informative and interesting! When can I come out and look for points??


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