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War Points

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  • War Points

    War Points

    There is only limited evidence of particular arrow points being used for warfare rather than hunting, but the differentiation – where it is reported to exist – was more usually about size and weight ratios in relation to arrow shaft length and weight. That in turn relates to bow styles and there certainly was a difference between the types of bow used for hunting and the types used for warfare (and hunting), as well as a difference between bows used when on foot versus later "horse-bows". Other factors also influence the size and weight of points, such as the types of wood available for bow-making and arrow shafts. Light-weight arrows made from reed stems had smaller points, whatever their intended use. The general concept of “war points” as a particular style is however false.

    The term war point or warpoint is however sometimes used to generically refer to small, late prehistoric, general-purpose projectile points with a triangular configuration and no notches or stem.

    You might in some circumstances be able to say whether a particular point was likely to have been produced for hunting rather than warfare if you knew the relationship it had to the type of shaft it was attached to and the bow style it was used with… but that’s probably as far as you could go. In some cases, the size and type of point on arrows used with the hunting bow may have been matched to the type of prey that was being hunted. Other than that, points were points and had a multi-purpose functionality.

    In any case, Native Americans would use what was immediately available unless perhaps preparing for a major conflict. It is recorded for example that Sitting Bull had made a gift of his war bow (to the US Army’s Colonel Miles, if I recall correctly) after entering Canada in 1876 and committing to make no raids across the border into US territory. When things kicked off again, he used his hunting bow instead.

    There is also evidence for preparation of arrows/arrowheads in relation to planned conflict, whereby poisons were sometimes used on points destined to be used in battle.
    This is what Saxton Pope had to say about the Yana-Yahi known as Ishi in his book “Yahi Archery”:

    The width of the bow at the middle of each limb was three or four fingers, according to whether a light hunting bow or a powerful war bow was wanted. Apparently some arrows, those of great length, measuring a yard, and having large heads, were purely for ornamental purposes, or intended to be given as presents, or possibly to be used in time of war….
    His hunting shafts were of two kinds - obsidian pointed, and blunt. In general it may be said that his typical hunting arrow was a hazel stick, with a foreshaft, the entire length being 29 inches. The diameter at the middle was 1/32 inch; and the total weight was 330 grains. The feathering of the arrow consisted of three plumes from a buzzard’s wing, 4 ¾ inches long, 3/8 inch wide….
    For making arrowheads, bone and obsidian and flint were used by the Yahi. Flint Ishi designated as pana k’aina and seemed to like it because of its varied colors. But hahka or obsidian was in commoner use, and among the Yahi it served even as money….
    To make a head of this type [a typical lithic point] required about half an hour. He made them in all sizes and shapes. Large spike-like heads were for gift arrows and war. Medium size heads, perhaps 1 ½ inches long, ¾ inch wide, and ¼ inch thick, were for ordinary deer shooting, while small, flat oval heads were for shooting bear….
    Last edited by painshill; 01-27-2016, 06:16 PM.
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.