Finding an arrowhead is a cool experience. Picking it up and thinking that you may be the first person to touch it in thousands of years is a surreal feeling. If you’re like me, you wonder how it got there – these things required lots of hard work to make – they didn’t just go down to the local walmart and buy a case of 2″ Hernandos – they beat the rock with something hard until it became sharp and then they attached it to a stick. Then they lost it (or intentionally left it behind). I wonder why?
The main theory that explains why there are so many ancient weapons found is that the original users were hunters and spent their day doing one thing – finding food. That makes sense, especially when you understand that, once again, there was no wal-mart. Everything they did revolved around survival. So when they woke up, they started their day slinging rocks at food. Have you ever thrown a rock at a tree? How many times did you miss before you hit it? Now imagine that the tree was actually a rabbit that was on the move. How many times could you hit the rabbit out of ten? Once? Maybe. Of course the first hunters were much more skilled at the art of hitting their targets. But how many times do you think they missed? Five out of ten? What happened to their ammo? In most cases they probably picked up the stick and used it again – unless it was broken and couldn’t be resharpened. But ask yourself this – if you’ve ever shot a bow and arrow, how many times have you lost one? It happens a lot. And keep in mind that their methods of attaching rocks to sticks wasn’t exactly superglue – they know what they were doing and were good at it, but sinew isn’t going to be as reliable as our modern day options.
I think it went something like this: Ancient hunter sees food and readies weapon. Food sees hunter. Hunter slings rock at animal. Hunter either A) misses the target or B) hits the target. From there, it can go a couple of ways – if he missed, the food runs and he tries again. And the first rock may or may not have been recovered. If he hits his mark, he chases the animal and finishes the job. How many rocks does it take? One? Two? Several? In the course of harvesting one meal, how many rocks did the hunter use? And if we assume that it takes more than one, how many of the other rocks did the hunter recover to use again? Those that are left behind become artifacts discovered by people like us thousands of years later.
Fast forward to present day. You’re sitting in a dove field in early fall and watching the birds fly in. You’ve got a 12 gauge in your lap and a dog sitting by your side. You’re sitting on a bucket and you’ve got two boxes of shotgun shells that you plan on shooting. How many birds do you hit? How many shells do you leave behind because you couldn’t find them in the grass? Now multiply this times every hunter in the country and imagine that each meal consumed that day depends on what is harvested in that dove field. Something tells me that there would be a lot of shotgun shells left behind to be discovered by a future hunter.
It’s not fair to assume that the ancient hunters were just like us. We hunt for fun. They hunted to survive. Their weapons were primitive and took so much more effort to produce. While their hunting skills were far more refined than ours, they were at a distinct technological disadvantage. But when you wonder just how that artifact ended up there, it’s easy to understand. To them, it was a tool. A means to an end. And they probably didn’t MEAN to leave it behind (because it was obviously valuable). They were just a little busy trying to survive.