5th Experimental Archaeology Conference Poster Abstract – Daniel Davies

From the 5th Experimental Archaeology Conference, Reading, 2011.

The science of projectile points: an experimental investigation into the classification of dart and arrow points in prehistoric North America

A PDF of this poster (copyright of the author) is available here.

Danielle Davies

Dept. of Archaeology, University of Exeter

The classification of dart and arrow points in North American archaeology has fuelled considerable debate regarding the application of functional typologies to isolated stone projectiles. Poor preservation of associated shaft components has led such typologies to rely upon dualistic metrical classification parameters, often overlooking the presence of technological diversity within the archaeological record. Investigation into the theoretical approach has, however, highlighted several problems with attempting to derive functional behaviour and active use from analysis of the static object alone.

The study outlined in this poster intends to emphasise the importance of the scientific approach through the active testing of projectile point capabilities. The science of projectile aerodynamics may be used to imply weight as the primary indicator of functional performance, with lighter arrow points used with the bow demonstrating a flatter trajectory than typically heavier dart points used with the atlatl. An archery-based experiment using replicated dart and arrow points from the Southwest allowed this concept to be tested, providing a valuable preliminary report concerning the usefulness of the scientific approach, as well as an assessment of deterministic theoretical approaches that have tended to overlook the possibility of types adopted.

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