How to Tell Original Arrowheads

By Jonathan McLelland; Updated April 25, 2017
Genuine arrowheads feature specific design elements; replica arrowheads do not.

Archaeologists describe arrowheads as sharp, pointed tips of arrows. This type of weapon was commonly used by American Indians for hunting and battle. Arrowheads are one of the most commonly found artifacts because Indians continually made these weapons. If you've found an arrowhead, certain qualities will help you determine if it is authentic or replicated.

Check the type of rock the arrowhead is made from. Arrowheads are normally made out of fine-grained rocks, which include quartzite, chert, flint or obsidian. During the creation process, an arrowhead is made by removing excess rock through striking, which is also known as percussion cutting or flintknapping, according to the Office of the State Archaeologist at University of Iowa. This process is done by hitting the arrowhead rock with another, less-flaky, rock.

Examine the surface of the arrowhead. Authentic arrowheads feature flake scars where pieces of the rock were hit away. These scars are normally curved; however, if the arrowhead is very old, these scars may be smoothed over. If this is the case, examine the surface of the arrowhead with a magnifying glass. If you can see slight slopes on the arrowhead, it was most likely created using the percussion method.

Study the shape of the flake scars. If they are not curved but squared or resemble chisel marks, the arrowhead is a replica, not an artifact. Since flintknapping is a common hobby, it can be difficult to determine authenticity on certain arrowheads. Visit your local archaeology society to have the item reviewed.

Compare images of authentic arrowheads with your arrowhead. While this may be a crude way to determine authenticity, it may at least help determine if the piece was recently made.

Tip

If you find an arrowhead buried in the ground, the chances of its authenticity are higher than if you purchased it from a retailer.

Warning

Be wary of arrowhead dealers. Prior to purchasing an arrowhead, ask to view a certificate of authenticity.

About the Author

Jonathan McLelland has been a professional writer since 2005. He has worked as a story writer and editor for the international sitcom, “Completing Kaden,” as well as a proposal writer for various production companies. McLelland studied communication and theater at St. Louis Community College.