Here’s How You Can Date an Arrowhead

Arrowheads are small, pointed tools that are typically made of stone, bone, or metal. They were used for hunting and warfare by ancient civilizations and have been discovered all over the world. Arrowheads are of significant historical and cultural significance, and their discovery provides valuable insights into the lives of people from the past. Collectors and archaeologists are interested in determining the age and origin of these artifacts. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of dating arrowheads.

Arrowhead Materials and Types

The materials used to make arrowheads vary depending on the region and time period. Common materials include stone, bone, and metal. In North America, the most common type of arrowhead is made of chert, flint, or obsidian. Other materials such as copper, bronze, and iron were used to make arrowheads in different parts of the world.

Arrowheads come in various types, including stemmed, barbed, triangular, and more. The design and shape of arrowheads changed throughout history, and collectors and archaeologists can use this to determine their age. The development of new technologies and social changes also influenced the design of arrowheads. For example, the introduction of the bow and arrow in the Neolithic period led to the development of smaller, lighter arrowheads.

Regional variations in arrowhead types and materials are also significant. For instance, the Southeastern region of the United States is famous for its triangular-shaped arrowheads, while the Northeastern region is known for its stemmed arrowheads. Additionally, Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and the Apache had their unique styles of arrowheads.

Dating Methods for Arrowheads

Several methods can be used to determine the age of arrowheads.

A. Stratigraphy

Stratigraphy is a crucial concept in archaeology, which involves the analysis of layers of soil or sediment that have accumulated over time. Understanding the concept of stratigraphy can help date arrowheads. Arrowheads found in the lower layers of soil are older than those found in the upper layers. The technique involves digging a trench to expose the soil’s layers and then carefully removing the artifacts found in each layer.

B. Typology

Typology is a method of classification based on the shape, size, and style of artifacts. Archaeologists can use typology to determine the age of arrowheads by comparing them to other known arrowheads of the same type and period. For example, if an arrowhead is triangular and made of chert, it is likely to be from the Archaic period in North America, which lasted from 8000 BCE to 1000 BCE.

C. Radiocarbon Dating

Radiocarbon dating is a technique used to determine the age of organic materials. It involves measuring the levels of carbon-14 in the material, which decays at a known rate. Radiocarbon dating can be used to date arrowheads made from bone or wood. However, this method has limitations, as the date obtained only provides an estimate and may not be accurate. The accuracy of radiocarbon dating can also be affected by environmental factors such as soil acidity and contamination from other materials.

D. Artifact Association

Dating arrowheads based on their association with other dated artifacts is another method. For instance, if an arrowhead is found in association with pottery or other artifacts of known age, the arrowhead’s age can be estimated based on the age of the other artifacts. This method requires a comprehensive understanding of the culture and society that produced the artifacts, and it is usually carried out by professional archaeologists.

Examining Arrowhead Wear and Damage

Assessing signs of wear and damage on arrowheads can provide valuable insights into their age and use. Wear and damage can be caused by different factors, including use, environmental factors, and post-depositional damage. Impact fractures and edge wear can indicate the age of an arrowhead and how it was used. For example, an arrowhead with heavy edge wear may have been used for cutting, while one with little wear may have been used for hunting. Environmental factors such as soil acidity, water exposure, and temperature can also impact the preservation of arrowheads.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

It is essential to follow laws and regulations regarding arrowhead collection and excavation. In some regions, it may be illegal to collect arrowheads without permission from the landowner or relevant authorities. It is also important to respect cultural heritage and obtain permission from indigenous communities before excavating or collecting arrowheads. Failure to do so can lead to the destruction of cultural heritage and the loss of valuable information about the past.

Professional archaeologists should be consulted when excavating or dating arrowheads. They have the necessary training and experience to excavate and analyze artifacts and can provide valuable insights into the culture and society that produced the artifacts. Additionally, they can ensure that the artifacts are preserved for future generations and are not damaged or destroyed during excavation.

Working with Experts and Resources

Working with professionals can help ensure the accurate dating and preservation of arrowheads. Professional archaeologists, museums, and local artifact clubs can provide valuable information and advice. Utilizing online resources, databases, and forums can also provide access to a wealth of knowledge and expertise. Some useful online resources for arrowhead dating include:

  • The Lithic Casting Lab website, which has information on various types of arrowheads, including pictures and descriptions.
  • The Society for American Archaeology website, which has a directory of professional archaeologists who can provide advice and expertise on arrowhead dating.
  • The Arrowheadology forum, which is a community of collectors and enthusiasts who share their knowledge and experiences.

Attending workshops, seminars, or field schools can also help individuals learn more about arrowhead dating techniques and best practices for responsible and ethical collecting. These events are usually organized by museums, universities, and archaeological societies and provide an opportunity to learn from experts in the field.


Arrowheads are fascinating artifacts that provide valuable insights into the lives of ancient civilizations. Accurately dating arrowheads is crucial for understanding their historical significance and cultural heritage. Various dating methods, including stratigraphy, typology, radiocarbon dating, and artifact association, can be used to determine the age of arrowheads. Assessing signs of wear and damage on arrowheads can also provide clues to their age and use. It is important to follow legal and ethical considerations when collecting and excavating arrowheads, and seeking assistance from professionals and utilizing available resources can ensure the accuracy and preservation of these artifacts. With this comprehensive guide, collectors and enthusiasts can further their understanding and appreciation of these remarkable pieces of history.


  • Nathan Collins

    Having spent years working in the landscaping industry, Nathan Collins has cultivated a wealth of knowledge about the natural world. He is committed to helping others appreciate the beauty in their backyards, whether it's through identifying rare rocks and minerals or crafting the perfect landscape.

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