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Arrowheads and Projectile Points with a Classification Guide for Lithic Artifacts

Author(s): G E van Buren

Year: 1974

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J. Whittaker: [Most of the book is devoted to an eccentric and not very useful splitter typology scheme based on 35 attributes, with point names unused by anyone else and quite unnecessary.] Discusses design influences on points, including bows: N. Am. relatively weak, would use light arrows, thus average arrowhead should be 4 gm, although up to 17 gm possible. Various possible point hafting techniques.

Atlatls: darts depicted on pre-hispanic art (Nuttall) suggest lengths 26-50 inches [Too short. As he notes, art is not necessarily realistic.] Wormington says Basketmaker darts 5.5-6.5 feet. He measured 3 darts ‘of unknown origin,’ all with stone pts: 24, 27, 45 inches. Cites Brown on atlatl inaccuracy. [Mentions a lot of suspicious darts – his 3 – where from? – and darts “from Turkey, Iran, Israel, Syria and N. India” – what’s with these? Atlatls were not used in these areas after Upper Paleolithic. Also San Diego Museum of Man collections darts ‘tipped by either flint or steel pts’ – historic US atlatl darts?.] Experiments with different shaft lengths: 1 ft to 8 ft, made of different light materials. Used 2 atlatls modeled [sort of] after Mexican forms [both are short and stumpy – 24” L, but only 15” hole-tip]. “Each throw was designed to test maximum range and accuracy of a shaft of specific length, with proj pts of gradually increasing weight to determine point of diminishing return.” Also observed effect on flight of center of gravity changing with point size. No fletching used. Over 3000 throws of the 8 dart sizes using over 300 proj pts, at least 3 throws for each dart averaged. 1 ft and 2 ft darts didn’t work well, 3 ft poor, others ok, but 8 ft too long to balance well on atlatl. Max distance achieved was 138’ with 5 ft dart with light pt. [He talks a lot about stability problems with most of the darts, and the distances are poor. He also cites Howard, so I guess he is not throwing with good form, and has too short an atlatl besides.] Four, 5, 6, 7 ft darts thrown for accuracy at a stake, landed “within the circle” “accurate enough for use as weapon.” [But circle size not given, so can’t judge.] Longer shafts and longer points tended to break more points. Projectile point weight had only minor effect on flight. Test points “copied only the outline” of various types and had “thick lateral ridge sometime exceeding 1/2 inch in thickness,” and “little attention was paid to thinning of the base or stem.” [In other words, these were not good replicas of any prehistoric points.] Also tried penetration tests with stone points on hay bales. [This was an ambitious experiment – in fact, he experimented with too many variables to properly control any of them. He gives lots of detail, but it shows serious inadequacies in his equipment.]

Cite this Record

Arrowheads and Projectile Points with a Classification Guide for Lithic Artifacts. G E van Buren. Garden Grove, CA: Arrowhead Publishing Co. 1974 ( tDAR id: 423407)


Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Experimental Archaeology

Record Identifiers

ExArc Id(s): 10219


Rights & Attribution: The information in this record was originally compiled by Dr. Roeland Paardekooper, EXARC Director.