Object of the month: Prehistoric projectile points

Monthly Artifacts

Prehistoric projectile points

The projectile zooms through the air and finds its target. It penetrates the animal’s heart which abruptly stops beating. The job is done...

This is a narrative that can describe an event that happens today, but it could also have taken place thousands of years ago. The point – along with the rest of the arrow or spear – were important tools in prehistory. They have been made over thousands of years, in countless ways, in every size and with different materials. All these variations mainly indicate the age og the point but can in some cases say something about how it was used.

The earliest point found in Finnmark are made in chert and quartzite, very hard rocks. These have been struck to their desired shape and size. The smallest arrowhead you see here is a transverse arrowhead. Contrary to what you might think, it is the broadest part of the stone that is the point of impact. Perhaps these small arrowheads were used for small game hunting, such as birds. The creator of the white, oblong point has been diligent. Why did they spend so much time on a point that can easily break or lost while hunting?

Later, points were made in slate, a softer rock. These were ground to their final form. These points had a variety of shapes and sizes. Some had barbs, some had tangs, some are leaf-shaped, others are long and thin. Slate’s advantage is that it is easily shaped. The disadvantage is that it breaks rather easily.

Sometimes it is difficult to decide if a point is meant for a spear og for an arrow. When is an arrowhead simply too big for an arrow?

Written by Rune Normann, curator