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Manufacture of Stone Arrow-Points
By W.H. Holmes
From: Arrows and Arrow-Makers, The American Anthropologist, Vol. IV., No.1, pp. 49-58. Washington D.C., January, 1891.
Part 1 of 4

The arrow-point was usually made of some material firmer and heavier than the shaft, and was attached by means of thongs and cement. Its purpose was to insure greater accuracy and range, and to give greater penetrating power to the weapon. Stone, though apparently but poorly adapted for such a purpose, has been very generally employed by primitive man, as the countless numbers of flaked points scattered over the face of the country amply testify.

It is not possible in all cases to distinguish points made for the arrow from those made and employed for projectiles thrown by the hand, or throwing stick, or from those intended to be hafted and used as knives, daggers, drills, and the like. It is not unlikely that many points were alternately used for a number of purposes as necessity demanded. In genesis the stone arrow-point is substantially identical with other similar objects of flaked stone. The knowledge and the skill that enabled the savage to secure and shape the stone in one case served equally well in all others.

The implement of chipped stone found in the hands of our aborigines was evolved through a succession of more elemental forms, but the series of steps from the earliest form to the finished tool of the highest type cannot be definitely traced; in a way, however, the progress of manufacture of each individual of the highest type repeats the steps of the evolution of the species or group to which it belongs. This becomes apparent when it is observed that the act concerned in producing the first flake has but to be repeated with proper modulations and refinements to produce the elaborated object.

The materials suited for flaking are very numerous. Those in ordinary use in this country include vein quartz, chalcedony, agate, jasper, flint, hornstone, chert, novaculite, slate, argillite, quartzite, and obsidian. Rare forms, such as quartz-crystal, carnelian, amethyst, opal, etc., were also employed when available.

Primitive man became a mineralogist almost with the first use of unworked stones, for he had to consider grain, density and toughness, and it was not long perhaps before color and translucency became important considerations through the association of ideas of a mystic nature. Little by little and through a long series of exploitations and experiments he learned to utilize all suitable stones that came within his reach.

When an implement of chipped stone was to be made it was necessary first to secure the raw material. Erosive agencies had scattered countless fragments of flakable stones over the face of the country, and these were gathered and used; but when such materials became scarce or were not within convenient reach, excavation was resorted to. This led to the discovery that freshly exhumed stone was more easily and surely worked than that seasoned by long exposure, and the art of quarrying came into existence. Quarrying began with the removal of a buried or partially buried stone from its bed in the soil and culminated with the removal of hills and the tunneling of mountains.

The conditions under which the various rocks exist are greatly varied. Slate, quartz, quartzite, chert, obsidian, and indeed nearly all forms are constituent parts of the solid rock-mass of the earth. In this form even civilized man finds them extremely difficult to detach and remove, and savage ingenuity must have been taxed to the utmost to secure the necessary supply. In many cases nature has done much to lessen man's labor in this respect. It happens that in past ages all varieties of rocks were extensively broken up by the dynamic and erosive forces of nature, and countless numbers of fragments descended into the valleys and were taken up by water and ice and rolled and rounded and finally deposited in beds of gravel along the banks and especially about the mouths of rivers. In this rolling process all the soft and friable stones were reduced to powder and the tough, flinty, flakable pieces were selected and preserved as if by intelligent design for the use of the stone-age man. These bowlders were much more readily quarried than the same rocks in their original beds. Equally convenient for use were certain nodular forms of flinty rock which are commonly weathered out, but which were also to some extent quarried.