Hunting for Fossilized Shark Teeth and Arrowheads: What to Look for

Long-time followers know that our family spends a lot of time looking for fossilized shark teeth, arrowheads and all kinds of artifacts, fossils and rocks.

(Scroll through this Instagram slideshow to see some of Toria’s finds from the other day.)

We have taken many friends to our local lakes over the years to introduce them to the hobby and teach them what to look for.

Today, we met some friends at a nearby lake to try to find something noteworthy.  Our friend Rebecca is very interested in history and that includes this sort of thing, so we promised to do our best to teach her how to spot the many fossils and artifacts that are generally all around us.

It is very hard to find things like petrified wood, fossilized shark teeth and arrowheads, but they are definitely still all around us and it’s surprisingly easy to find them once you know what you’re looking for.  Daryl and the kids have often found fossils and small pieces of petrified wood in parking lots.

Like four leaf clovers, part of the trick is learning to really look at the ground and pay attention to what’s around us.

If your kids want to improve their luck finding these sorts of geologic and archeological treasures, I recommend finding examples (in photos, books and real life) and really looking at them.  Look at examples of arrowheads and learn to notice what the rock itself looks like (typically flint) and how it is “worked” on most sides (notched from being struck with a tool to shape it).  Notice how there is usually a groove on both sides of the bottom to hold the arrowhead on to the arrow.

arrowhead

You’ll notice that the point is broken off this one, which is not uncommon.  This is many hundreds of years old, after all, and could also have broken off on impact during hunting.

Notice the very definite shape of the bottom though.  Arrowheads will almost always have the notched sides on the bottom and that distinctive shape.

This is an exception, an arrowhead that Daryl found today (alongside a fossilized shark tooth).

arrowshark

Notice how it has no notches to hold it onto the shaft of the arrow?  This is a Madison point arrowhead and it was used for war.  When hunting animals, you would want to retrieve your arrow and arrowhead to use again.  When battling in war, you would want the arrowhead to come off of the arrow and be lost in the flesh of the enemy.  Smart, huh?

You will generally find the first type of arrowheads (used for hunting), but if you find this type and you can clearly see where it was worked on the bottom and that it wasn’t simply broken off, you know that arrowhead was made for battle.

When looking for fossilized shark teeth (for those of us who live in inland states like Minnesota that were once under the Great Inland Sea), you also will learn to look for the characteristic colors and sheen of fossilized shark teeth.

This is a shark tooth that our friend found today.

sharktooth

Notice the classic shark tooth shape and the glossy, dark material.  You’ll see that it differs in a lot of ways from the shark tooth above (which was also found today), which is from a different type of shark and a different era.  Still, they both have similar shapes, size and color.

This particular shark is probably from a Crow Shark, and the shark probably lived over 65 million years ago.  (See this page Daryl wrote up here a few years ago for more about identifying various fossilized shark teeth you find and how to date them.)

Pretty astounding way to study history and science, and help them come to life, huh?   🙂

If anybody is interested in learning more about how to help their kids ID these kinds of things, leave a note and I’ll try to talk more about how to do it in the future.

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