How to Find Indian Artifacts in Pennsylvania

Typically speaking, older artifacts tend to be more valuable due to being rarer and having greater historical significance.

Serious arrowhead hunters usually walk fields only after they have been ploughed or tilled and after a substantial rainfall has fallen; ancient people would camp close to water sources when camping outdoors.

These sites are precious to archaeologists and historians. Additionally, they serve as important stewardship sites.


Arrowheads were an integral part of Native American culture, used as hunting tools, deterring evil spirits and conducting ceremonial rituals. Furthermore, they were traded between tribes as well as with settlers.

Stone arrowheads typically made from flint, obsidian, or quartz are chosen due to their durability and lightweight characteristics, helping arrows fly straighter with increased weight bearing capability. Furthermore, this material must also be easy to work and strong enough to penetrate animal flesh – its size depends upon the function desired – ideally with one pointed end and base for stability.

Finding arrowheads in spring and autumn can be quite straightforward, when water levels in creeks and rivers drop significantly, exposing more sand and gravel beds which makes arrowheads easier to detect.

An ideal spot for such searches would be an area where two or more creeks or rivers converge – these were popular Indian camping locations and likely hotspots for other hunting activities as well.

Indians would often camp close to rivers, streams and creeks for fresh water supplies. If possible, try and locate an area further from the water source and away from its flood plain, such as on an outcropping such as a knoll or bluff.

Arrowhead hunters should avoid areas with multiple people digging. Their digging could have disturbed sacred sites or ancient burial grounds; furthermore, any digging near an Indian gravesite violates law and may even be illegal.


Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County is an archeological site dating back 16,000 years that holds important Paleoindian components and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 2005. Excavations at Meadowcroft revealed significant information on Paleoindian life and diet; additionally, Meadowcroft shows how Native Americans traveled in small groups over long distances using landscape to their advantage.

Archaic Period in Pennsylvania occurred approximately 10,000 years ago and featured warmer, drier conditions than today. Excavations at sites like Lower Black Eddy camp in Bucks County reveals new stone tools, larger social groups, and diet dominated by plant-based foods.

Pottery of this period included bowls or jars with paddle-shaped bases that were decorated with incised or cordmarked lines carved directly onto their surfaces or drawn with sticks then painted, creating designs more complex than those seen in Clemson Island/Owasco culture pottery.

This pottery is created using crushed freshwater mussel shells from the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers and their many tributaries, specifically Quiggle Incised pottery (Herbstritt 2020) with other forms such as Stewart Incised, Shenks Ferry Incised, and Grubb Creek Punctate also being produced in similar styles.

Science and heritage sites hold great scientific and heritage value; unfortunately they’re also vulnerable to damage from people seeking artifacts for themselves; their motivations range from curiosity or the desire for financial gain; these quarry sites also face further threats from the trade in Native American artifacts – this trade puts these quarry sites under strain, needing the protection and management services provided by public lands agencies; these nonrenewable resources must remain available to future generations of the public.


Precolonial Pennsylvania was home to an abundance of raw material for flint knappers. Many river systems ran through areas once covered by Pleistocene glaciers that exposed, eroded, and rounded various types of rock formations – thus giving Native Americans plenty of material with which to refurbish their tool kits wherever they went; when doing so, every flake of debitage could be put to good use; when enough artifacts from them have been recovered and studied carefully together, a clear picture emerges of what life was like in times past.

Paleo Indians used many tools, the most prevalent being projectile points (like arrowheads). A single piece of flint could produce multiple projectile points depending on its usage in different environments. They utilized these to hunt large and small animals such as mammoth, mastodon, moose, antelope and caribou (known as megafauna), while they also collected smaller animal foods like seeds and nuts from smaller animals as food sources.

To create a projectile point, a knapper used a cobble to rough up one edge of a fragment of stone before striking it with a hard blow from a hammer to split the fragment in two and sharpen one of them using another stroke from the hammer; this became one end of a spear blade while its opposite blunt end became its base for attachment to wooden shafts.

Due to the variety of materials from which they could be constructed, Pennsylvania boasts several types of flint projectile points made out of various flint types that date back over 12,000 years ago – Clovis points being among them and dating back around 12,900 BP. Around this same time a new style called fluted point emerged – known by its fluting down both sides for better attachability to wooden shafts used for hunting purposes.


Native American camps were often located close to water sources, as ancient peoples relied heavily on this resource. A creek, river, spring or pond can often provide excellent finds; look out for sites which are up off of floodplains, such as bluffs or knolls. During the Paleoindian period (16,500-10,000 years ago), many different tribes explored and migrated through various areas – travelling in bands of several families, gathering at Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County Pennsylvania as an invaluable source of Paleoindian artifacts.


Archaeological sites statewide that feature Native American material culture can be found anywhere across Pennsylvania. A great place to begin searching is through the National Register of Historic Places; this resource provides a comprehensive listing of pre- and contact period sites across Pennsylvania – searching under Historic Name field may yield the best results.

As many archaeological sites are on private land that is closed to the public, it is essential that you check with property owners prior to exploring them. When digging on private property it is imperative that you obtain permission and are familiar with proper archaeological methods if digging there. Finding someone knowledgeable to show you around can also help – perhaps in your local university or college or Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology chapter as an example might provide this service.

Paleoindian Native Americans lived in small, mobile bands between 16,500 and 16,000 years ago. Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Washington County contains Paleoindian components and is one of the oldest sites in Eastern United States with them; it provides invaluable insights into technology, diet and way of life of this time period. Meadowcroft Rockshelter includes an exceptionally intact cultural stratigraphy which has revealed much about Paleoindian lifeways.

Paleoindian diet was composed of mammoth, mastodon (forms of wooly elephant), bison, horse, camel meat as well as wild animals and plants as well as seeds nuts and berries sourced from Shawnee-Minisink and Shoop sites in Dauphin and Monroe Counties respectively – these sites have provided ample proof for such diet.

At the Paleoindian period, stone tools consisted of simple flake knives and scrapers. Around 12,900 BC, fluted spear points began appearing. Fluting involved adding grooves down both sides of a spear point to facilitate its hafting to wooden shafts; it is known by various names such as Clovis, Debert, Barnes Crowfield or Plano.

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