Dennis Cassinelli: The difficulty of making arrows
I want to thank all my readers who bought my books for the Christmas holiday, especially “Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians.” The book is devoted to enabling people interested in American Indian artifacts to identify and date the many types of projectile points, beads, knives, pendants scrapers and other stone artifacts that have been found in the Great Basin. It’s fully illustrated with drawings and photographs of hundreds of artifacts.
Chapter 11 of “Preserving Traces” is a fictional prehistoric short story illustrating the difficulties involved in the seemingly simple task of making arrows. One of the most often asked questions I receive from people is, “How did the Indians make their arrows?” Often the discussions concentrate on how the ancient people were able to make such beautiful chipped stone projectile points and tools with the limited resources available to them. Somehow the discussions dwell on how wooden arrow shafts were made or how arrow points and feathers were attached to the shafts.
Think for a moment just how resourceful the people had to be in prehistoric times in order to make the things they needed for survival from only the things they could find in their natural environment. There were no pocket knives, hardware stores, supermarkets or any of the things we take for granted today.
I have hunted with the bow and arrow, and I even tried my hand at flintknapping my own arrow points. Having crafted my own stone knives and weapons from wood, feathers and stone, I have developed an appreciation for what it takes to manufacture simple prehistoric weapons.
Imagine walking out into the woods or the Nevada desert and attempting to make some hunting weapons without so much as a pocket knife in your possession. Today, we take for granted the ease of shopping for any conceivable item or gadget to make life easier for ourselves. Hunters today would be lost were it not for places like Scheel’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse or Cabella’s where they could buy whatever they needed to hunt or fish.
In the days of the Great Basin Indians, the people made everything they ate, used, smoked or wore from things they found in their natural environment. Some simple trading occurred, but most things people had they made for themselves.
In my story about making arrows, I let a couple of young men from ancient western Nevada tell just how difficult it was in those days to perform the simple task of making arrows. The story takes place along the Truckee River Canyon at a place where I’ve hunted before and I know it was the site of an old summer hunting encampment. I hope you will enjoy the humor, tragedy and the sobering experience of this prehistoric short story in Chapter 11 of “Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians.”
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.