Hunting Arrowheads in the California Desert

by Donny Quinn
When you find an arrowhead, resist the temptation to walk off with it.

When you find an arrowhead, resist the temptation to walk off with it.

Hemera Technologies/ Images

The thrill of the hunt entices many a traveler. While Native Americans hunted prey using tools such as spears and arrows, the modern archaeologist hunts arrowheads to learn more about the tool-making habits of these early American cultures. If you want to take part in studying history in the California desert, hunting arrowheads requires you to know how to find these artifacts, how to recognize them and what to do with them after you study them.

Finding Arrowheads

Finding arrowheads means searching areas with known campsites of early American tribes. But anywhere within several miles of ancient Native American settlements could turn up arrowheads, as hunting often requires traveling away from home base. When hunting for arrowheads, always check the appropriate ordinances for your right to search for and remove arrowheads; you'd hate to find yourself on vacation in a tribal or county jail. After you find an arrowhead, take a picture of it along with local landmarks, mark the location on a map and inform a local university's geology or anthropology department.

What Now?

California considers arrowheads a cultural resource, so you cannot remove arrowheads from state parks. Even moving an arrowhead in a state park can result in fines or imprisonment. Additionally, removing arrowheads from tribal land can result in consequences with the tribe. Always check with a local college, state attorney's office or tribal government for laws concerning arrowheads.

California Desert Tribes

By knowing the tribes in California's desert regions, you can more easily match a found arrowhead to the people who used it. The tribes of the Mojave Desert include the Mojave, Serrano and Kawaiisu; the Sonoran Desert contained the Tipai, Quechan and Halchidhoma tribes; and the Great Basin Desert encompassed several Paiute tribes and the Washo.

Identifying Arrowheads

You can't kill a wild javelina with just any type of rock. For this reason, Native Americans made arrowheads from specific rocks and minerals, primarily hard minerals that break in sharp fractures. These minerals and stones include jasper, agate, chert, flint, glass, obsidian and petrified wood. In your searching, you may find a stone with a natural triangular shape that may or may not be an arrowhead. To be sure, look for the marks of the scraper that formed the arrowheads.

About the Author

Donny Quinn has been writing professionally since 2002 and has been published on various websites. He writes technical manuals for a variety of companies, including restaurants, hotels and salons. Quinn is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English at Georgia State University.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images