Can Metal Detectors Find Arrowheads?

Photo of author

Cory Haasnoot

Updated On:

If you are a fellow detectorist, you know that finding relics is no less than treasure hunting. A
metal detector is a great tool to find many artifacts but people are often confused if metal
detectors can find arrowheads. In this article, I am going to share my insight with you about this

In general, metal detectors cannot find most arrowheads as they are mainly made of
different stones, such as flints, obsidian, or chert. However, there would be some rare
arrowheads that are made of metal such as copper, which can be found by metal

So you can see it is not the credit of a metal detector if you find arrowheads in the same site
where your metal detector beeps. Let’s dig deeper to understand how the arrowheads are

Why Metal Detectors Cannot Find Most Arrowheads

Before we talk about why metal detector doesn’t work for arrowhead, let’s shed some light on
how a metal detector actually works.

Metal detectors use the principle of electromagnetism, which is, in simple terms, a combination
of electricity and magnetism. With the search coil, the metal detector transmits an
electromagnetic field into the ground. Any metal object within that field becomes energized and
retransmit its own electromagnetic field.

That’s when your metal detector alerts you! So you can see, only metal objects can be
targeted through this device, not non-metals, such as stones or ceramics.

What Materials are Arrowheads Made of?


Most arrowhead artifacts found in the United States were made by the Native American Indians
during the stone age.

The arrowheads were supposed to be sufficiently strong, shapeable to be sharp, and lightweight
enough to fly. That is why they chose stones or materials that can be easily chipped and

Most arrowheads are made of:

  • specific stones, e.g. jasper, quartz, obsidian, chert, chalcedony, agate, basalt, etc.
  • organic materials, e.g. clams, oyster shells, animal bone, natural wood, or petrified

None of these materials can be detected by a metal detector.

During the stone age, Native American Indians did not know how to smelt or shape metals. The best they could use was some naturally occurring metal nuggets, mostly copper. Again, copper was considered the symbol of wealth among them. Therefore, only a few artifacts, which belonged to those rich Indians would contain metal.

If you detect any of such metal arrowheads, that’s certainly a rare find!

Later on, when the Indians came in contact with the Europeans, they gradually learned to use steel and other metals. Metal arrowheads and spearheads can be easily found by metal detectors.

How are Arrowheads found?

Hand holding a small arrowhead.

Now you must be wondering, how are arrowheads found then? This confusion arises even more
when someone claims to find an arrowhead exactly while exploring with a metal detector. In
reality, this could happen out of sheer luck or close observation from a trained eye.

However, there are several facts and factors, which in combination can increase your possibility
of finding arrowheads. Let’s discuss some of such tips!

Digging Deeper: How to Metal Detect In The Woods: 13 Essential Tips

Finding a Potential Location

You need to do some homework to research different indigenous tribes; their lifestyle, habits,
culture, and customs. In that way, you can recognize what sort of artifacts to expect and what
type of material was existent in the areas they stayed in.

There are more than 574 federally recognized Indian nations in the USA. Their location is
scattered in different states, whereas 229 of them were located in Alaska.

Native American tribes were seasonally nomadic. They would move to distant places during
summer or winter and settle in camps. They would look for suitable places for fishing, hunting,
or planting crops during summertime, usually to higher elevations. Conversely, during winter,
they would migrate to lower altitudes that can help them survive the cold.

There are also some short-term campsites, most of which were set up for festivals, tribe
meetings, or even seasonal sustenance. Long-term campsites can be great potential
locations to find arrowheads, whereas short-term campsites can be nice for finding some
dainty pieces and artifacts.

Camps were mostly located near a water source, such as creeks, lakes, ponds, or rivers. Clean,
shallow water sources and nearby places could be great to find arrowheads, especially those
which have been recently cleared or dried up. Old swamps or sandy loam areas can also be
potential sites.

Check out the video below about finding arrowheads, which reassures these facts! You can learn about
different tribe locations through the following resources:

  • Historic records
  • Local guides
  • Google map
  • Internet search
  • Books and documents etc.

When you are vising such places, don’t forget to ask the local people as they can direct you to
the best locations! You can also read this book that provides a detailed guideline for surface
collectors to find arrowheads.

Identifying the Area of Interest

As mentioned before, metal detectors are often used to find relics. These relics could be coins,
jewelry, knife blades, needles, harpoons, breastplates, etc. So, when a relic hunter is exploring
a site, a metal detector can certainly map out an area where Indian artifacts can be found.

Thus, even though the metal detector cannot detect most arrowheads, it may lead you to the
area, where there is a possibility to find arrowheads. Of course, if you are hunting for metal
arrowheads, the metal detector will do the job.

Timing of Exploration

Time and season are critical factors for the successful exploration of artifacts. Early spring is the
best time for arrowhead hunting, particularly after rainfall or a flood. This is because the surface
layers of the soil would be washed away and different debris and artifacts would be easily

After harvesting, fields would also be great to explore at places of former Indian settlements.

Training Your Eyes to Recognize Arrowheads

When you are hunting for arrowheads, you must know what you are looking for. You can learn
about different stones and how they look like from online research or museums.

Besides, you can train your eyes to identify those pointy arrowheads. Sharp edges, flaked
surfaces, or distinct shapes can distinguish arrowheads from regular stones. Distinct colors of
some arrowheads can also help to spot them, for example, the obsidian stone has a darker
appearance, sometimes even black.

So, knowing about the material can definitely help you search for the arrowheads.

Know the Law about Finding Arrowheads

Knowing the law is crucial if you are planning to pick arrowheads. Be aware of the local laws
and regulations to avoid any legal issues. Key points are listed below for your convenience:

  • You can legally hunt for artifacts on private land, only if you have the permission of
    the landowner. Be sure to get permission, or it will be considered trespassing and theft!
  • Regarding public lands, you should be very careful! Artifacts and antiques in public
    lands are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. I
    recommend reading it thoroughly and make sure that it is legally permitted to collect
    artifacts in the particular public land you plan to explore.
  • Even if some public lands allow you for surface collecting, be aware of the fact that you should not dig or sift on public lands.
  • Be mindful that it is illegal to disturb a burial site and to possess a burial object,
    offerings, or human skeletal remains.
  • You cannot buy, sell, trade, import, or export illegally obtained historic artifacts; sacred,
    burial, or cultural objects.

Breaking the law will cause you to get into serious trouble, and I never want that to happen!

Digging Deeper: Legal Metal Detecting: Do You Need a License?

Conclusion – Can Metal Detectors Find Arrowheads?

I hope you found the answer to your query and some useful tips and tricks about finding
arrowheads. Nevertheless, please abide by the law and enjoy your treasure hunt to the fullest!

Photo of author

Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.

Leave a Comment