Native Americans used a variety of materials for arrowheads, including, rocks, stones, and other organic material, such as wood, bones and horns. The earliest arrowheads were made of hard stones such as flint and obsidian that were shaped and sharpened through processes known as flintknapping and pressure flaking. These processes involved striking the flint with hammer-like objects to break off smaller flakes, which were then shaped into points and notched for attachment to arrows.
The location of a tribe influenced the materials used by Native Americans for arrowheads. For example, archaeologists in Louisiana have discovered arrowheads made from alligator scales. Points made from colorful stones such as jasper and agate are common in the Pacific Northwest, while arrowheads made from petrified wood are more common in New Mexico and Arizona. After encounters with the first Europeans in the 16th century, Native Americans began using various metals to form arrowheads, and the discovery of such points can help determine when such encounters took place.
The size, shape and material of arrowheads can reveal a great deal about a tribe and its level of development. Hunting with bows and arrows requires a degree of foresight in gathering resources and planning, cooperation and communication among group members, and leadership skills to coordinate the activities of the group.