Shaped in Stone

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1999

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

Suddenly, something different caught his eye. Although he saw just a bit of it, the boy knew instantly that it was something made by human hands. He scraped away the moist soil to uncover the arrowhead and pulled it from the earth, feeling its cool weight in his hands. The boy turned and sprinted back up the hill to his family to show them the treasure he had found.

Missouri: Rich in Native American History

Encountering Native American artifacts is a common experience for Missourians. Because of the number of waterways that crisscross our state, Missouri in the past supported large populations of native peoples who left traces of their existence all over our state. These reminders of the past range from the giant platform mounds near St. Louis to areas where the only visible sign is a change in soil composition and coloration from centuries of use as a camp site.

No matter where you live in Missouri, with a bit of practice and basic knowledge of what to look for, you can spot places that likely were used by earlier residents. At these sites and other areas frequented by Native Americans, you are likely to find arrowheads, pottery shards and other indicators of the land's previous residents.

The Ideal Family Activity

Searching for arrowheads and other artifacts is inexpensive, requires no tools other than patience and good vision and can be practiced year-round. Arrowheading combines physical activity with a chance to enjoy the outdoors and plunge head-first into the abundant natural history of our state.

David Shell, a banker in Cape Girardeau, likes to pursue arrowheads with his 9-year-old son. "When I take him," said Shell, "I try to educate him on why we're there and what we're trying to do. I'll point out to him the contour of the land and explain why the people lived in one spot and not another."

Shell first learned about the wonder tied to finding an arrowhead in 1987 when good weather "spoiled" a duck hunt. The clouds were high and the birds weren't flying, so Shell's companion suggested they look for arrowheads. His partner found a small, perfectly formed point after a few minutes of looking, and Shell has been hooked ever since.

Finding Arrowheads

To those who have arrowheading in their blood, finding a "point" is an experience that often transcends words. Holding an object that was crafted by human hands and has remained hidden in the earth for

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